By Kyle Siegel
Since 2005, the Sedalia-Pettis County United Way organization has been headed up by Executive Director Elle Wasson-Duggan, and under her direction the United Way has seen increased success in raising funds to help the 25 agencies that fall under their umbrella.
On June 1, Wasson-Duggan is retiring and her replacement, Linda Kirk, begins a new chapter for the Sedalia-Pettis County United Way.
The News-Journal had a chance to sit down and speak with both ladies over the upcoming changes.
Wasson-Duggan became the executive director of the United Way in 2005 and she enjoyed her time with the organization during her seven-year journey.
“This was a good time. I felt like I had done the things I wanted to accomplish with the United Way. I thought it was time for new ideas.
“It is hard to let go. Stepping back is sometimes hard to do,” Wasson-Duggan said.
She added, “Working with people who have such a passion for their organizations and community, they are all outstanding people.”
When speaking of the things Wasson-Duggan had hoped to accomplish when she first started as executive director, she explained her main goal.
“My primary goal was to build good relationships with our agencies and the community. This is a community that will always step up when they know the need of our agencies,” she said.
“My job was really being the liaison between the board and the agencies,” she added.
During her time with the United Way, Wasson-Duggan set goals to educate the community on the purpose of the United Way.
“One of our goals is to educated the community that all the money raised here, it stays here. The majority of our money goes to our agencies,” she said.
During Wasson-Duggans’ time with the United Way, the operating cost for the agency was at 5.8 percent.
An operating cost that low is generally unheard of, and that includes salaries, office supplies, and United Way dues.
Wasson-Duggan was asked how she has seen things change with the United Way since taking over the executive directors position.
“The first campaign kicked off the week following Katrina. Businesses and industries pulled together to help. When it came time for the United Way, it was a tough campaign that year.
“We have always met our goal. We are a small community, but it is amazing to not only meet our goals but grow,” Wasson-Duggan said.
Elle was asked if she wanted to say anything about her time with the agency.
“A wonderful thank you to the community for how they have supported our cause,” she said.
She added, “I am not disappearing. I will be around. I want to see what it is really like to retire this summer.”
When one chapter ends, another one begins and this is no different for the United Way.
Linda Kirk will be taking over as the executive director on June 1, but Kirk is no stranger to the United Way. She has been with the organization since 1990.
“The very first time I was associated, I was the in-house chair of the employee campaign when it was Mercantile Bank in 1990. I started out by doing that. I got started then,” Kirk said.
Kirk was asked if she is excited becoming the executive director.
“I am excited about working with the campaign and the board members,” she said.
She added, “The community is so helpful, and the industries as well. The main thing is that it increased when the economy was so low. We plan to carry on the Elle Wasson-Duggan way, which is to be very kind and supportive of the agencies and board members,” Kirk said.
The Sedalia-Pettis County United Way has a large board with 40 members.
Kirk was asked if she has any personal goals she would like to achieve with the United Way.
“What I want to do for the first year, I really want to go to the agencies and understand their needs. There are some agencies that I have not worked with much, and I want to understand them,” Kirk said.
The United Way held an open house on Thursday, May 31, for people in the community to come have a chance to say goodbye to Elle Wasson-Duggan and to welcome Linda Kirk into her new position. Photo by Randy Kirby, Sedalia News Journal.