OSKALOOSA — Michella Friesen has been named executive director of United Way of Mahaska County.
Friesen started volunteering almost a year ago and was hired as community impact Coordinator by United Way in February. In her role as community impact coordinator, Friesen helped with events and was in charge of volunteers and was a bridge between United Way and the community.
As executive director, Friesen oversees the whole United Way of Mahaska County organization, in addition to running the yearly campaign.
“I still would say we do some bridge to the community things,” she said, “interact with our funded partners, make sure internal programs are running.”
Friesen said United Way’s mission is to empower the community by promoting education, encouraging healthy living and encouraging financial stability.
“We do deal with four pillars,” she said, “which are health, education, financial stability and basic needs. We look for gaps within those ares and help to address those gaps.”
United Way of Mahaska works with many partners in the community. The organization’s fundraising efforts ramp up between October and the end of the year.
“Right now, the money that we’re working on collecting, we will use some of that money to run our internal programs, but then we will offer up grants to nonprofit agencies and they can apply for the grants,” she said. “And then we have a group of people that come in for the community investment night and that group of volunteers has read through the grants and then they’ll listen to a presentation by each organization and then they will decide who gets funded and at what level.”
Friesen said she has lived in Oskaloosa for almost 10 years and has worked for many years with nonprofit organizations.
“I went to college in Colorado. We actually moved to Oskaloosa because of my husband’s job; he works at William Penn,” she said. “Some things I do here in the community is I’m a girl scout leader. I have been a girl scout leader for over 25 years. I participate in Rotary; that’s a new thing. I love to read. I’ve read over 40 books so far this year.”
Friesen’s passion, she said, lies with nonprofit organizations.
“I have done a lot of nonprofit work,” she said. “I have worked within the foster care system, the homeless system and domestic violence and sexual assault.”
Friesen’s goals include continuing to build upon the foundation that has been laid by previous leaders.
“I’m also looking forward to learning, because I’m still kind of learning. I’ve only been [with United Way] just about a year and I think that every job, it takes a little bit to learn everything,” she said. “So I think being within everything for a year, I think, gives you that good foundation of how we can continue to build and make things grow.”
More United Way volunteers are welcome, Friesen said.
“I would like to see us pick up some more volunteers,” she said. “I think volunteering gives something back to the person who is volunteering. It’s not only the organization that is getting the benefit of that person volunteering. I think it’s also the volunteer who gets huge benefits from being able to volunteer. Because normally, they’re doing something outside of what they do for work or their regular life.”