Some people are born with a tremendous sense of compassion, caring, and community. They become lifelong supporters, volunteers, and donors to a wide range of civic and nonprofit causes. For United Way of Thurston County, Mike Leonard went above and beyond, even working for the organization through his upcoming retirement in August 2022. Today, we're taking a moment to celebrate his hard work and caring heart.
“I have been a contributor to United Way campaigns since 1984,” explains Leonard. “I worked for the Lewiston Morning Tribune in Lewiston, Idaho at the time, and volunteered to be a Loaned Executive, working with our paper and community businesses to bring attention to needs of the most vulnerable in my community.”
But it didn’t stop there. “My pledges continued throughout my newspaper career,” he recalls. “A little over nine years ago, the Vice President of Planned Giving at United Way of Pierce County suggested that I apply for the position of Development Officer there, which was the start of my United Way career.”
“After two and a half years in Pierce County, I was offered the role of Development Manager at United Way of Thurston County, and a short time later became the Director of Development. My title changed to Director of Community Engagement a few years ago as our organization focused more on engagement with our workplace partners.”
It was this sense of community engagement that drew him to donating all those years ago. “I’ve always been impressed with United Way’s ability to work with community leaders and local businesses to tackle the toughest challenges in our community. We mobilize the caring power of our community to fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in our community. We do this by identifying critical needs in Thurston County within our focus areas and investing in local nonprofits doing the best work to meet those needs. The best part is working with local businesses, city, county and state government, and the amazing individuals who come together to help us with our mission.”
He and his wife Kathy “have always tried to model a philanthropic spirit of giving and volunteering with our two young adult children, Garrett and Shea. Our family has supported several nonprofit organizations over the years, and we plan to continue as much as possible. There are so many great nonprofit organizations in Thurston County that need support.” They appreciate that their “financial gifts to United Way help support our mission, and in the long run, support the great nonprofit organizations who provide vital services in our community.”
Though retiring, Leonard’s not stepping away too far. “Kathy and I moved to Olympia in 1985, and our children live and work in the community. We plan to spend our retirement life in the community and will continue to devote time to volunteer efforts. I plan to continue supporting United Way as a part-time consultant, as needed, for the next six months. My 9+ year career with United Way has been the best years of my working life. I have met many wonderful people in our community, including our workplace partners, board members, and the best colleagues a person could ask for.”
But there will be plenty of time for relaxation as well. “I have been an avid golfer and cyclist for most of my life, and let’s just say that with some additional time on my hands, I may be on the golf course a couple of times each week,” he laughs. “We also like to travel and spend time with our kids. And let’s not forget Olive, our Labrador. She will certainly be receiving much more attention from me!”
Leonard understands, however, that giving is a very “personal decision for everyone. I always encourage people to give financially if they can, and if financial gifts are not an option at the moment, donate time to a charitable organization. I always remind people that a financial gift doesn’t have to be large. Giving even a small about each month adds up, and the more individuals who give to United Way, no matter what the amount, goes a long way to support the community.”
And, at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about: community. Thanks to the tireless support of people like the Leonard family, we’re all a little stronger together.