Let’s Hear it for—and from—United Way’s new Campaign Co-Chairs!
At the start of each fiscal year, United Way of King County selects campaign co-chairs to lead the organization’s annual fundraising efforts. Campaign chairs help bring energy and awareness about United Way work to generate funding that helps sustain and expand our many programs.
This year, we proudly welcome campaign co-chairs Scott and Patty Meden to the role. Scott is a United Way of King County board member and retiring chief marketing officer at Nordstrom. Patty’s long role as a community volunteer includes leading the refurbishing of a school library. The married couple have been involved in community outreach for many years—even while they were still dating.
We recently sat down with the Meden’s to chat about how community outreach and service play a major role in their lives today.
United Way of King County: In terms of volunteering and being civically involved in the community, what are some of your earliest recollections of doing that together?
Patty Meden: United Way! Individually, when we were both single, we started giving at Nordstrom through workplace giving. For [Scott] that was 1985, and for me that was 1988.
Scott Meden: One of our first pictures together was at a United Way breakfast, when we were still dating.
Patty Meden: In 1996 our son was a year and a half old and we moved to Seattle when Scott took on a new role with Nordstrom. A couple years later our son was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, and as he developed it became really crystal clear that a lot of the services we were using and had access to were funded through the United Way. We never thought that workplace giving would affect us personally. That’s when it hit home … you never know what you’re going to need or when you’re going to have to rely on people in the community to help you out. It became really important to us to make a more substantial gift.
You never know what you’re going to need or when you’re going to have to rely on people in the community to help you out.United Way campaign co-chair Patty Meden
Scott Meden: What stands out to me is that while both of our parent’s set examples in this area. I actually credit the combination of Nordstrom and United Way for reinforcing the importance of giving back to the community. I remember going to those early United Way meetings and the whole concept that came through, repeatedly, was how important it is to give back to the community you live in and the community Nordstroms serves. We serve a community of customers and we are a part of that community, so we should give back.
United Way of King County: What resonated most about some of those United Way meetings?
Scott Meden: One of the things that really struck me about those meetings was that United Way was seen and portrayed as this amazing safety net. At the time, that was fantastic. But what was exciting to me when I joined the board in 2014 is how United Way has evolved with a much more targeted, strategic focus. While the safety net idea was great and right for the times, things have changed. Today that strategy is focusing in and making sure we are building a community that is racially just, where all families have homes, students graduate and families are financially stable. That has been very powerful for me—just seeing over a long expanse of time how United Way has evolved, changed and adapted to what the community really needs today.
What was exciting to me when I joined the board in 2014 is how United Way has evolved with a much more targeted, strategic focus. While the safety net idea was great and right for the times, things have changed.United Way campaign co-chair Scott Meden
United Way of King County: What has the work that the two of you have done together taught you about each other?
Patty Meden (to Scott): I always knew that you were passionate about giving back and that you are a person who sees the bigger picture. You’ve always been a selfless leader and I’ve always sensed that. But to see it now, given the current environment and the amount of time and effort you spend really trying to understand the needs of our community has been heartwarming. You’re digging deeper and leaning in more to find solutions.
Scott Meden [to Patty]: For me, the thing I learned wasn’t completely unexpected, but the absolute zero need for any of it to be about you but really about what you’re participating in. But also, just the dogged persistence that you bring to whatever you’re doing. How many years did you work on that [school] library that needed help? It was just Patty and two other people who helped create an entirely new library. Talk about thankless work, lots and lots of hours and hard to get the result. But it really was about the content, getting those old books out of there and getting new books that kids would actually be interested in.
United Way of King County: At a time when inflation is affecting so many facets of our lives—from the price of milk and eggs to the cost of heating a home to paying rent—what are you hearing people say about struggles to make ends meet?
Patty Meden: I was speaking with my girlfriend about that topic [recently], and she said, “I just feel like there is nobody that isn’t touched, bottom line. So, we’re all experiencing just a small dose of the pain that the most marginalized in our community are feeling. Everyone is starting to experience it. Now is the time to have empathy for your neighbor and hopefully that spurs action … it will make people say, “Hey, I do want to get involved and make a difference.”