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United Way leader retires

[[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_large","fid":"2010533","attributes":{"alt":"","class":"media-image","height":"480","title":"","width":"311"}}]] When Kathi Madsen took the helm of the United Way of Superior-Douglas County, one of her goals wa...

Kathi Madsen


When Kathi Madsen took the helm of the United Way of Superior-Douglas County, one of her goals was to get the community more involved with the nonprofit that provides funding for community organizations. On that front, she succeeded. "It’s about collaboration and working for the community," Madsen said about the agency she’s lead for the last nine years. "I always saw United Way as a resource for the community." Madsen rose to every challenge by looking for opportunity in every problem and focused on collaboration to find the solutions. After all, she turned to the Chamber of Superior-Douglas County when she was looking for a solution to assure children in need had the necessary school supplies. She said Bayside Baptist Church and the Superior Housing Authority each did their own thing, with the help of Chamber president and CEO, Dave Minor, Stuff the Bus was born. "That first year, we had all these supplies out at the middle school," Madsen said. "And kids got to come out and pick their own backpacks and pick their own colored pencils, and we’re still doing that. It’s those things that make a community. I’m pleased with that." The community school supply drive remains among her proudest achievements. "You think about what those families and what they have to make decisions about," Madsen said. "School supplies are low on the list, but those kids need them." As a one-woman show, Madsen often found herself relying on volunteers to help fill the many needs of the agency. "We’ve been the community partner with UWS (University of Wisconsin-Superior) service learning … for probably six years," Madsen said. "And I’ve had as many as nine students in my office in one semester. They keep you young, but you have an opportunity to mentor them … it’s like watching your own child grow up." Over the years, Madsen said she’s been blessed to have direction from a board made up of people who genuinely cared about the community - boards that have, at times, reined her in to stay focused on the agency’s mission. "I have been criticized and complimented for thinking outside the box too often and too far outside the box," Madsen said. "I work well under that structure." With plans to retire last year, Madsen worked with the board to take the agency in a new direction, one that involved a merger with the United Way in Duluth into a new organization that would serve the entire head of the lakes region. Madsen delayed her planned retirement to ensure the success of the merger that formed the Head of the Lakes United Way. "That was just the next step," Madsen said. "They do everything that we do and we’re like … five miles apart. We’re separated by a bridge -big deal. I did everything except wash the windows and clean the toilets. Over there they have 15 staff and they can probably do it better. … They definitely can do it more efficiently." Now that the merger is complete, Madsen says it’s time to move on so she has more time to spend with her grandchildren in Seattle, Wash., and Janesville, Wis. However, she still has plans to be involved right here in the community as a volunteer, working with a community service program for students who are truant. "I’m going to do that as a volunteer now," Madsen said.
When Kathi Madsen took the helm of the United Way of Superior-Douglas County, one of her goals was to get the community more involved with the nonprofit that provides funding for community organizations.On that front, she succeeded."It’s about collaboration and working for the community," Madsen said about the agency she’s lead for the last nine years. "I always saw United Way as a resource for the community."Madsen rose to every challenge by looking for opportunity in every problem and focused on collaboration to find the solutions.After all, she turned to the Chamber of Superior-Douglas County when she was looking for a solution to assure children in need had the necessary school supplies. She said Bayside Baptist Church and the Superior Housing Authority each did their own thing, with the help of Chamber president and CEO, Dave Minor, Stuff the Bus was born."That first year, we had all these supplies out at the middle school," Madsen said. "And kids got to come out and pick their own backpacks and pick their own colored pencils, and we’re still doing that. It’s those things that make a community. I’m pleased with that."The community school supply drive remains among her proudest achievements."You think about what those families and what they have to make decisions about," Madsen said. "School supplies are low on the list, but those kids need them."As a one-woman show, Madsen often found herself relying on volunteers to help fill the many needs of the agency."We’ve been the community partner with UWS (University of Wisconsin-Superior) service learning … for probably six years," Madsen said. "And I’ve had as many as nine students in my office in one semester. They keep you young, but you have an opportunity to mentor them … it’s like watching your own child grow up."Over the years, Madsen said she’s been blessed to have direction from a board made up of people who genuinely cared about the community - boards that have, at times, reined her in to stay focused on the agency’s mission."I have been criticized and complimented for thinking outside the box too often and too far outside the box," Madsen said. "I work well under that structure."With plans to retire last year, Madsen worked with the board to take the agency in a new direction, one that involved a merger with the United Way in Duluth into a new organization that would serve the entire head of the lakes region.Madsen delayed her planned retirement to ensure the success of the merger that formed the Head of the Lakes United Way."That was just the next step," Madsen said. "They do everything that we do and we’re like … five miles apart. We’re separated by a bridge -big deal. I did everything except wash the windows and clean the toilets. Over there they have 15 staff and they can probably do it better. … They definitely can do it more efficiently."Now that the merger is complete, Madsen says it’s time to move on so she has more time to spend with her grandchildren in Seattle, Wash., and Janesville, Wis.However, she still has plans to be involved right here in the community as a volunteer, working with a community service program for students who are truant."I’m going to do that as a volunteer now," Madsen said.

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