Joe Burris

United Way of King County Announces Ethan Stowell and Steve Hooper, Jr. as Campaign Co-Chairs for 2020-2021

Stowell is the Founder and CEO of Ethan Stowell Restaurants, and Hooper is the Company’s President. They join United Way to fight existing challenges exacerbated by the global pandemic and help the organization build a community where people have homes, students graduate and families are financially stable.

(SEATTLE)— United Way is honored to announce the co-chairs of the 2020-2021 fundraising campaign. They are Ethan Stowell, founder and CEO of Ethan Stowell Restaurants, and Steve Hooper, Jr., president of ESR. They co-own the company.

This is Stowell’s second stint as campaign co-chair. He previously served as campaign co-chair in 2017-18. 

“I’m looking forward to digging in one more year and trying to make some positive change,” Stowell said, while acknowledging the economic challenges and deep job losses brought on by the coronavirus pandemic. “In our district, there’s going to be a lot of job re-training for a lot of workers who will not be coming back to our industry and many other industries.”

Stowell said he has been impressed by the work United Way has been doing for the community since COVID-19 hit the region earlier this year.

“I can’t applaud enough the work that United Way is doing,” he said. “It seems to me that United Way is always doing something that has the ability to grab me and impress me. That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to do this again.”

Hooper said it is “an honor” to serve as co-chair this year.

“Restaurants are on the frontlines of receiving the worst of the economic downside of the pandemic,” Hooper said. “Simultaneously, it was a unique opportunity to make some real positive impacts from the frontlines and really make a difference in the most difficult of circumstances, knowing how people’s lives would be impacted—our employees, our teams and their families.”

Hooper added this was the right time for him to help out this way.

“I’m thinking about the future—did I do everything I could do in this time to make a difference? Will I be proud of the work I did? I think this is a great way to do that,” he said.

Hooper added that education is important to him and his wife, and United Way programs like ParentChild+ are part of “the great work that’s happening. It’s a good way to give parents a head start.”

Hooper lauded United Way’s Bridge to Finish program, which helps community college students finish their studies with emergency financial grants, financial training and other benefits.

“I’m one who believes that post-secondary education is the path out of tough economic situations,” Hooper said. “Thousands of hospitality workers who lost their jobs at the beginning of the pandemic will not return to the industry and will need to be retrained. Programs like Bridge to Finish are part of the solution.”


Stowell said that, in the past, he held “fun and great” entertainment events to raise funds and engage the community. This year will have to be different due to the pandemic.

For example, United Way’s Eat, Drink & Be Generous fundraiser last year attracted 530 guests. Instead, Stowell said he is working with several local restaurants on a series of virtual gatherings where guests and donors get to cook with some of Seattle’s best-known chefs, including himself. 

“We’re going to bring a little fun to a hard time, so we’re going to try to do a bunch of events,” Stowell said. “I felt like, at this time, we have to do something that’s going to help out the restaurant community as a whole, so we came up with this idea of supporting restaurants and supporting local businesses by doing events.”

Stowell said those virtual events have been entertaining and fun. “It’s the style we’re doing on the short term. Ideally, we’d love to get back to doing them in person.”

Stowell said he’s worried about the coming eviction crisis and the racial disparities in housing.

“I’m talking about the eviction crisis that’s going to be coming our way and the systemic racism in home ownership and affordable housing. I think it’s a big deal,” he said. “The governor has done a great job stopping evictions for a while, but that doesn’t mean rents aren’t due and that they’re not piling up on people’s plates. There’s a lot of work we can do, and a lot of work that needs to be done.”


United Way of King County works with determination and innovation to create a community where people have homes, students graduate, and families are financially stable.

Signature United Way of King County programs include Home Base, which helps people with rental assistance and avoid eviction; ParentChild+ helps struggling parents gain the skills to be their child’s first, best teacher; Reconnecting Youth helps young people earn a diploma or GED because education is one of the best ways to end the cycle of poverty; and Bridge to Finish, a program that helps community college students finish their education by providing emergency grants, financial training and access to public resources at 10 campuses in King County.

95% of every contributed dollar goes direct to community impact thanks to a substantial endowment originally seeded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and designed to offset the bulk of organizational operating costs.