A Garden Party With Drama
This year’s United Way of King County Champions Celebration was September 12 at the stately Broadmoor Home of Noreen Shahani, a member of our board, and her husband Kabir Shahani, an entrepreneur. The evening was studded with dramatic moments including the introduction of our new President & CEO, a welcome to our 2019-2020 campaign chairs, the presentation of a seldom-given award, and the sudden intrusion of blinding lightning and drenching rain (fortunately, just as the event was finishing). Champions are donors who give $10,000 and up each year to United Way.
Noreen Shahani welcomed the crowd of eighty, flanked by her daughters, resplendent in pint-sized dresses from the family’s native India.
Jonathan Sposato and Heather Lowenthal took over, reflecting on their year, just ending, as United Way campaign chairs (and welcoming the incoming chairs, community volunteer Leigh Toner and Chris Capossela, Chief Marketing Officer at Microsoft (more about Leigh and Chris here).
Jonathan and Heather each talked of being continuously energized by the goodwill and idealism they encountered on the trail. Heather announced that the campaign generated $36 million! More important, those dollars enabled work including:
- The launch of Home Base, a program that — with funding from the Seattle Mariners, Microsoft and others — helps people on the precipice of homelessness avoid eviction through short-term rental assistance and other support.
- Bridge to Finish, the United Way program that last year provided financial support and services to 4,222 students struggling to stay in college.
- The ParentChild+ home-visiting program, which last year helped 1,319 low-income families better prepare their children for success in Kindergarten — and beyond.
Jonathan paid tribute to Jon Fine, soon to retire after nineteen extraordinary years at the United Way helm. And he introduced Gordon McHenry, Jr., who will become the new President and CEO in October.
Gordon spoke of his deep respect for Jon and his legacy. “Among Jon’s many great qualities,” he said, “is persistence. It’s only by persistence that we’ll reach the goal that he and all of us hold so dear: making this place of unusual abundance also a place of unusual generosity and compassion.”
Jon Fine used one of his last public appearances as CEO to welcome Gordon and present the organization’s highest honor to a board member and donor who’s been at his side during almost his entire tenure.
The Beacon Award for Visionary Philanthropic Leadership went to Dan Brettler, CEO of Car Toys and Wireless Advocates, and his wife Cindy Brettler, a beloved and tireless community volunteer. Beginning some twenty years ago, Dan and Cindy made it their family’s mission to do all they could to address the suffering of homelessness in our community. They have since given millions of dollars to organizations like United Way, Plymouth Housing Group and Solid Ground, and just as important, given their time as advisors and advocates. Dan for instance, has served on numerous United Way committees focused on homelessness and also as chair of All Home (successor to the King County Committee to End Homelessness).
Dan noted all that he his family have received in return — not just a meaningful chance to give back, but many rich friendships and relationships built along the way.
Soon after, the gathering storm took center stage. A first lightning bolt knifed through the darkness, adding an exclamation point to an already eventful night.