Onward: United Way’s Chris Hynes

By United Way of King County, on May 31, 2024 | In News

After 26 years of dedicated service, United Way of King County chief marketing officer Chris Hynes said farewell today.  Under Chris’s leadership, United Way established a strong brand position that helped propel record growth and made the Seattle-based organization one of the system’s most influential local United Ways.

Chris is also slated to be United Way of King County’s final chief marketing officer; the organization is merging its Brand/Marketing and Development teams to create a new department under a new name.

On her last day, Hynes reflected on her time with the organization.

As my tenure at United Way of King County ends, it feels like a good time to reflect and celebrate. What an honor it has been to be a part of this community philanthropy movement, particularly in a region as generous, innovative, and dynamic as ours.

I’ve heard the United Way described as “the people’s foundation,” and that definition resonates with me.  United Way’s strength lies in the collective nature of the enterprise, our donations, and our efforts, combined with others to magnify the impact.  

Over the past 25+ years at United Way of King County, I’ve collaborated with numerous talented and dedicated individuals. People who gave so freely of their time and talents and were willing to embrace unconventional ideas devised with my team to raise funds and awareness for community challenges. Initiatives include hunger awareness week, the Climb for the Community, and celebrity  All-star Softball Classics. These stand out as examples of our innovative approach.

Above photo: Chris Hynes with United Way board member and former Seattle Seahawks star Doug Baldwin. Banner photo: Hynes with Amazon head of community affairs Taylor Hoang.

Although remaining with one organization for such an extended period may seem uncommon today, it was driven by United Way’s adaptability to evolving community needs. The organization consistently reinvented itself to address new challenges and engage diverse audiences.

One thing never changed, though: the smart, inspiring, and hardworking team at United Way. The team’s commitment to social justice, racial equity, and doing better by our neighbors has been steadfast.

Whether the team was tasked with creating a Community Resource Exchange to provide people experiencing homelessness with one-day, one-stop access to services or a Community BBQ to bring families together to re-engage post-pandemic, we met the challenge.

Ultimately, my role at United Way was all about fostering connections through storytelling, creating events, sharing the work of my brilliant colleagues, raising awareness on critical issues, and hopefully inspiring action.

Before working at United Way of King County, I witnessed something that has always stayed with me. I was on Third Avenue with just a few people milling around, waiting for the bus. A woman and her young son, probably nine years old, were at the bus stop. Something about them caught my attention—the ease and connection between them—something I hoped I would have when I became a parent.

Suddenly, the atmosphere changed as we all heard a series of blood-curdling screams coming from a man, probably living unhoused, walking down the sidewalk towards us. I got that feeling of wanting to disappear, you know, don’t make eye contact or draw attention to yourself, and maybe we can all act as if this never happened.

Only that nine-year-old boy was scared, and he locked eyes with his mother and said, “Mom?” in that quiet, urgent way that children have when they need an explanation from their parents. That mother’s response is something I’ll never forget. “It’s all right,” she said, “Sometimes people hurt so much on the inside that they have to let it out a little.”  With that response, she reassured her son and changed my perspective forever.

Without judgment or condescension, she modeled an authentic, empathetic response for us. In an instant, she collapsed the distance between them and me.  I felt my connection to that man and his pain, and I’ll always be grateful to her for articulating it.

That has sustained and motivated me over all these years directing marketing and communications for United Way: the potential inherent in the connections we can make. By listening, learning, and sharing our experiences, we can and will build an equitable future for everyone. Together.


Comments

Roxanne Gossard
June 1, 2024

Best wishes, Chris! I enjoyed the time we spent working together at UWKC. Thanks for your years of service to the community.

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