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November 8, 2013

United Way of Merced County gets new chief

United Way of Merced County appointed a new executive director this week. Carol Bowman will take over from interim head Ashlee Williams.

Carol Bowman said she moved into her third career this week when she took the job as executive director of the United Way of Merced County.

The Atwater resident, who has worked in the private and public sectors, said her move into the nonprofit zone with United Way will give her a way to help people in Merced County.

“I feel like over the years I’ve acquired a lot of skills and knowledge and expertise,” the 66-year-old said. “I’ve worked outside of the community for a good part of the 17 years I’ve lived in the Valley, and so I wanted to contribute to the community where I live.”

Bowman said she worked for 26 years in planning and implementing strategies for Pacific Bell in the Bay Area before transitioning to her second career – the elderly and public housing management.

Bowman moved to Atwater, where she managed Castle Vista Senior Duplex Community, a 230-unit retirement community at the time. She also worked for other retirement communities, for a total of 10 years.

Bowman said she entered the public sector with the Stanislaus County Housing Authority and continued with moves to the housing authorities in San Joaquin and Fresno counties. She worked for about a decade in various levels of housing management, all the time living in Atwater.

Most recently, Bowman was involved in opening three apartment complexes with a total of 100 units in Fresno County for people who were both homeless and diagnosed with a mental illness. She called it a “significant achievement” in her career.

“I saw the value of providing housing for low-income people and how important that was to help people achieve self-sufficiency in their lives,” Bowman said.

She said United Way is a sort of expansion on her time with the housing authorities, where families were also given access to educational, language and after-school programs.

United Way of Merced County brought in about $1.8 million from grants, donations and other revenue from July 2011 to June 2012, according to the nonprofit’s tax form. About 2,400 volunteers donated their time that year.

Programs that work with United Way are Building Healthy Communities, Central California Regional Obesity Prevention Program and Merced County Food Bank, among others.

Bowman said United Way will continue to fund individual nonprofits in the area but wants to expand by implementing programs on education, health and income. “We’ll be focusing on collaboration with other agencies in the community, and not just in Merced but throughout Merced County, to have a broader community impact,” she said.

The focus of a broader impact could be to ready children for school or increase high school graduation rates, for example, Bowman said.

A press release from the board of directors for United Way of Merced County praised Bowman’s extensive experience.

“The board is very pleased to have attracted a candidate as qualified as Ms. Bowman to hold this important position in the community,” President Bob Harmon said in the release.

United Way of Merced County dates to 1954, though its name has changed a few times. One major role of the nonprofit is to provide funding for organizations that benefit the community.

The nonprofit focuses on education, health, financial stability and economic development for the community and its families.

Bowman takes over from Interim Director Ashlee Williams. Former Director Flip Hassett retired from the position in June after about seven years with the nonprofit.

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