COLUMBIA — There's a new face at the Heart of Missouri United Way. The organization's recently selected new executive director, Connie Benton Wolfe, started work Friday.
According to the United Way Web site, the organization, known until recently as United Way of Columbia, serves about 100,000 people in the mid-Missouri area every year. Local partnerships include Boys and Girls Club of Columbia, Central Missouri Food Bank, Meals on Wheels, Rainbow House and OATS Transportation Services.
The search for a new executive director began when David Franta, the organization's executive director, gave notice in February that he would be moving to St. Louis. His last full day was May 31, but he worked part time for United Way through July.
"We posted the position on the United Way of America Web site," said Karen Taylor, president of the Heart of Missouri Board of Directors and executive vice president of Boone County National Bank. "We came to a final panel of five that we interviewed, and then we made the selection from there." Taylor said the applicant pool was more than 35 people, and the search lasted around three and a half months from the time Franta decided to leave.
Taylor said it was Benton Wolfe's extensive background with nonprofit organizations and United Way that made her stand out. Benton Wolfe spent four years as chief professional officer for the United Way of Johnson County, Iowa, in addition to time served as the chief executive officer of the national Meals on Wheels Foundation and the chief professional officer of the Center for Active Seniors in Davenport, Iowa.
Benton Wolfe, an Iowa native, said she started her professional career with nonprofit organizations because "the nonprofit sector adds an element of richness to all our lives."
She also said that she and her family were looking forward to moving to Columbia.
"Columbia has a great reputation as a unique community," she said. "I think it will be a good fit for us."
Benton Wolfe mentioned the medical and scientific community, the student population and Columbia's arts scene as things that have her excited about the city.
Although she has not yet familiarized herself with all aspects of her new job enough to make predictions about the future, Benton Wolfe hopes that more partnerships are in United Way's future.
"My belief is that one of the United Way's greatest strengths is to be a bridge builder across the community," she said. "Partnerships will be a big part of where we're headed."