United Way of Merced County director only retiring in theory

mnorth@mercedsunstar.comMarch 11, 2013 

— A man who's ingrained in the Merced community will soon retire from his post, but he won't necessarily call it quits.

Frank Hassett III, who's more commonly known as "Flip," is set to retire from his position as executive director of United Way of Merced County at the end of June. He plans to travel, practice photography and spend more time with family.

The good news for Merced is Hassett, 66, plans to stick around as a resource.

"I'm still going to be involved," he said. "I will never let this community go."

Since Hassett started working for United Way of Merced County in 2006, the organization thrived despite economic woes. The organization has increased its income in recent years by going after diverse funding from various sources. Those funds are invested back into the community.

United Way of Merced County focuses on education, health, financial stability and economic development to foster successful communities and strong families, Hassett said.

When he leaves United Way, Hassett said, others will step up to carry out those objectives.

"All my team loves this community, which is really cool because I don't have to manage them -- they just do it because it's the right thing to do," he said of his employees.

The organization raises about $480,000 in pledges every year. That money goes toward marketing for nonprofit organizations, and at least $100,000 is allocated to local nonprofits in need of funding. A Community Impact Committee decides the best way to distribute the funds.

With the sluggish economy, more organizations are coming to United Way looking for assistance, Hassett said. Not everyone gets the funding they're looking for, but Hassett said doling out money isn't always the answer. Sometimes, he says, more help comes from connecting people and organizations to promote collaboration.

"This community operates by relationships, and people appreciate the things that you can do for them," he said.

Hassett's sense of community is one that dates back to when he came to Merced in 1963.

Since that date, he's been involved in a slew of activities, including the Castle Joint Power Authority, Merced City Council and the Planning Commission. Those groups, coupled with several private business endeavors, have highlighted a long, assorted career for Hassett.

But one of his proudest accomplishments is his involvement in local swimming programs.

Hassett was the owner and developer of Merced Swim School from 1996 to 1998 and coached swimming at various levels. He was influential in the national movement for competitive women's water polo and helped bring the first Women's World Cup for water polo to Merced College in 1979. He was inducted into the U.S. Water Polo Hall of Fame.

District 2 Supervisor Hub Walsh, a longtime friend of Hassett, said his involvement in Merced is deep.

"He has a real strong commitment to our community," Walsh said.

Though he'll be missed at United Way, Walsh says he has no doubt that Hassett will find ways to support and continue to improve the population around him.

Though some people tend to focus on the negatives, Merced is a great community to live in, Hassett said. He added that he prefers Merced over big cities because it's easier to build partnerships and friendships, and to collaborate with others.

"We don't understand the gifts that are around us, and those gifts are the people and also what nature's given us," he said. "Just appreciate the things that are around us."

Reporter Mike North can be reached at (209) 385-2453 or mnorth@mercedsunstar.com.

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