United Way of Snohomish County CEO Craig Chambers at their headquarters on June 29, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

United Way of Snohomish County CEO Craig Chambers at their headquarters on June 29, in Everett. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

New CEO expected to reinvigorate United Way of Snohomish County

The nonprofit lost staff and funding during the pandemic. Craig Chambers wants to turn things around.

EVERETT — United Way of Snohomish County’s long search for a permanent leader is over.

The nonprofit this month hired Craig Chambers to fill the chief executive officer position that has been held on an interim basis since May 2020, when Allison Warren-Barbour left the top position. Board chair Nicole Amor said Chambers is “the rock star, the gem” that the agency sought to fill the role.

“Craig is a very charismatic, energetic person that truly understands United Way and the work that our United Way is going to be accomplishing,” Amor said.

Chambers, 37, most recently spent two years as the chief executive at United Way of Skagit County. His resume includes another seven years of executive and directorial experience with the YMCA of Snohomish County.

He is expected to make a yearly salary of $128,000, down from the last permanent CEO’s salary of about $165,000. Chambers lives in Lake Stevens with his wife and four children.

Board members expect him to reinvigorate an organization that’s waned during the pandemic. The local United Way downsized from about 20 full-time employees in early 2020 to 10 this July. In that same period, the agency has undertaken two failed executive searches and waved goodbye to four interim CEOs.

Donations plummeted, falling from about $2.4 million in 2019 to about $1.2 million in 2021, according to the organization’s annual reports.

Amor said the nonprofit has not been immune to the challenges of the past couple years.

“United Ways globally have had to pivot, and we have struggled in the pivot. Part of that was us trying to pivot during the pandemic without a permanent CEO,” she said. “We know that we haven’t been as engaged with the community as we need to be, and now that we’ve gotten the search over with and have a CEO to help guide us, United Way will be much more engaged in partnerships and COVID recovery.”

Amor said the board had been searching for the right person to lead the organization, even turning down candidates found by an external search consultant.

“We had a couple of good candidates, but neither were going to be the right fit. And that’s when we really realized that we needed someone local. We needed someone that knows Snohomish County,” she said.

Having lived in Snohomish County cities most of his life, Chambers said he knows “every nook and cranny” of the community he is now working for. He also relates to the lived experience of the families United Way helps.

“I grew up as a kid that needed that support system. We didn’t have a lot of money growing up. We were a single family household, three kids, broke, poor, lettuce and mayo in the fridge and that’s it,” he said. “My mom worked hard … but that doesn’t work sometimes — a lot of times. So I get super passionate about helping the people that need us the most.”

Chambers plans to build back staff, connect with donors and get out to listen to local families and their experiences, so the organization can better understand how to help. He also wants to visit United Way partners in person as often as possible and be easily accessible to employees.

And he aims to keep in place the organization’s “CORE Collaboratives” focused on removing barriers to early childhood education, post-secondary and employment pathways, economic assets, health and wellbeing services and social connections. The group adopted the systems-oriented approach in 2018 in an attempt to find long-term solutions for families experiencing poverty.

Instead of short-term fixes, like giving out free meals, United Way might work with families to find child care, transportation or job opportunities, to address the issues preventing them from affording food in the first place.

“We are not fighting for tomorrow,” Chambers said. “We are fighting for 15 years down the road.”

Mallory Gruben is a Report for America corps member who writes about education for The Daily Herald.

Mallory Gruben: 425-339-3035; mallory.gruben@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @MalloryGruben.

Talk to us

More in Local News

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Monroe in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Police: Monroe hit and run suspect arrested for 2 DUIs in 3 hours

The driver had just been arrested and released for a DUI, when he allegedly ran a red light and crashed into a pickup.

Everett
Man hurt in house fire east of Everett

The home in the 12400 block of 51st Avenue SE was reported on fire at 12:54 a.m.

A wanted suspect was arrested after a standoff with law enforcement Tuesday night. (Bothell Police Department)
Kidnapping suspect arrested after standoff in Bothell

A large police presence contained the property in the 20500 block of 32nd Dr. SE on Tuesday night.

Community Transit's Lynnwood microtransit pilot project is set to launch this fall with a service area around the Alderwood mall. (Community Transit)
Lynnwood’s microtransit test begins this fall, others possible

Community Transit could launch other on-demand services in Arlington, Darrington and Lake Stevens.

Doctor Thomas Robey sits in a courtyard at Providence Regional Medical Center on Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
‘It’d be a miracle’: Providence tests new treatment for meth addiction

Monoclonal antibodies could lead to the first drug designed to fight meth addiction. Everett was chosen due to its high meth use.

Rev. Barbara Raspberry, dressed in her go-to officiating garments, sits in the indoor chapel at her home, the Purple Wedding Chapel, on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022, in Everett, Washington. The space used to be two bedrooms, but she and her husband Don took down a wall converted them into a room for wedding ceremonies the day after their youngest son moved out over 20 years ago. The room can seat about 20 for in-person ceremonies, plus it serves as a changing room for brides and is the setting for virtual weddings that Raspberry officiates between brides and their incarcerated fiancees at the Monroe Correctional Complex. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Everett’s oh-so-colorful Purple Wedding Chapel is in the red

Rev. Rasberry has hitched hundreds of couples over the years. After her husband died, she’s unsure if she can keep the place.

Everett
Man dies in motorcycle crash that snarled I-5 in Everett

Washington State Patrol: he tried to speed by another driver but lost control and hit the shoulder barrier.

The summit of Mt. Pugh in late July 2022. (Caleb Hutton / The Herald)
Skagit County dentist dies in fall on Mt. Pugh near Darrington

Matthew Gifford, 56, died of blunt force injuries Aug. 13, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed Friday.

Logo for news use featuring the municipality of Snohomish in Snohomish County, Washington. 220118
Child, 3, hit and killed while playing in driveway in Snohomish

The deceased was identified as Emilio Vazquez Amaya.

Most Read