Archive for Wednesday, January 9, 2008

New leader takes reins at United Way

January 9, 2008

Erika Dvorske starts work Monday as leader of the United Way of Douglas County, and she knows she's got some catching up to do.

Dvorske, as incoming president and chief executive officer, already recognizes that the operation has about a $1.7 million budget and financial partnerships with 27 member social service agencies.

But for a leader whose United Way work has focused on shifting from an agency-based orientation to a program-oriented concentration, Dvorske is looking forward to discovering just how many programs the agencies offer and which ones do the most good.

"That's part of my learning curve," said Dvorske, who has spent the past six years at the United Way of Wyandotte County, most recently as its director of community investment. "My philosophy about United Way is being in partnership with our agencies. We raise money, we tell their stories, we communicate them to a broader community, and they work with us to ensure that it's all going to the best places.

"Agencies do a great job with the work they do, and United Way has a responsibility to see the bigger picture and see how all those partners fit into the larger community equation. It's really important - and certainly one of my priorities - to bring folks together to see what that equation is."

In Wyandotte County, Dvorske's responsibilities included oversight for much of the $3.8 million in donations and grants received each year. The operation has 28 member agencies, with 52 programs - each focused on addressing specific community needs - financed by United Way.

"It's the destination that really counts, and that's that the dollars are accomplishing what the dollars have been set out to accomplish," she said.

Chuck Warner, co-chairman of the 2007 United Way campaign in Douglas County, said he was looking forward to welcoming a qualified replacement for Jo Bryant, who led the agency from 1981 to 1986 and then returned to the local United Way in 1998. Next week, Bryant will become a consultant until her planned retirement in March.

"My expectation is that we'll continue on as we've done," Warner said. "She'll come in with a little different perspective, she understands that the United Way of Douglas County has been successful, and it will be a great opportunity for her and the United Way."

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