WATERTOWN — While she may be officially leaving the Watertown Urban Mission, Executive Director Dawn M. Cole said the blow is softened by the fact that she is not leaving the community and will still be able to interact with the mission through different initiatives.
The United Way of Northern New York announced earlier this month that Ms. Cole had been named the next president and CEO, effective June 27. The agency had been looking for a new leader since the position was vacated by James “Jamie” L. Cox in March.
The United Way said that Ms. Cole, an experienced business leader who has been working in the human services field for over a decade, will bring her experience to the organization.
UWNNY said it expects her leadership experience to be valuable in continuing to implement United Way initiatives, including the evolution of the North STAR Center for Professional Development and the Asset-Limited Income Constrained Employed (ALICE) Program.
“The United Way feels like the next level of community service,” Ms. Cole said. “Here, it’s been wonderful providing services and coordinating services for vulnerable populations and really, moving to the United Way is just kind of taking that work to the next level, and now interacting and supporting the work of many organizations, including the mission, across the tri-county area.”
Ms. Cole said she brings a collaborative spirit to the table and is looking forward to meeting United Way stakeholders across the region to learn more about how the United Way addresses community needs and what more could be done to make sure there are no gaps in services.
Ms. Cole started at the Urban Mission in late 2018, and was previously at the Community Action Planning Council as its deputy director. She served as deputy director from 2010 to 2018. Prior to that, Ms. Cole worked in marketing at Car-Freshner Corp. and with the 1000 Islands Tourism Council. Ms. Cole also served in nonprofit leadership roles at Trinity Episcopal Church, Jefferson Community College Foundation, and WPBS-TV. At the mission, Ms. Cole succeeded Joanna Loomis, who left the organization for a new role with the North Country Initiative.
Ms. Cole said she is proud of the mission team that was built, noting that the organization has a top-notch staff and committed board of directors.
“I think the underlying theme in all the work that we’ve done has really been heavily targeted toward this idea of collaboration and working together to serve the community,” she said. “We have really built — and this isn’t single handed — working with the board and with the staff, we’ve really built stronger relationships, true partnerships with the churches. I think the CARE Center is an excellent example of bringing together multiple organizations in one space to provide services.”
The community assessment and resource, known as the CARE Center, opened in June 2021. Located inside a renovated portion of the Impossible Dream Thrift Store on Factory Street, the CARE Center is a collaborative project bringing together several local, nonprofit agencies with parallel goals to serve under resourced individuals. It serves as a hub for assistance with housing and other community needs.
In addition to the CARE Center, Ms. Cole said she is proud of several new initiatives that were introduced while she was at the mission, including BEST — Building Economic Stability for Tomorrow — a program that combines rental assistance with case management and financial education; the expansion of the Getting Ahead workshop series, and a mobile food pantry.
“Truly I’ll miss the people. However, I remind myself that I will still be able to interact with the mission and many other like organizations,” Ms. Cole said. “This has been the opportunity of a lifetime; it has been the most rewarding and most challenging position I’ve ever held. I feel like there’s been a lot of momentum and I hope for continued forward momentum for the mission.”
With Ms. Cole’s imminent departure, the search is on for a replacement to take on the role. According to Robert J. Tharp, board president of the Urban Mission and pastor at the Life Church of the Nazarene on Thompson Boulevard, the board had hoped to announce an interim director by the end of this week, but isn’t quite there yet.
Pastor Tharp said the board is already actively searching for a new director, and the job information is on the organization’s website and indeed.com. He said resumes are coming in and there seems to be a fair amount of interest in the position, so the hope is to start interviews soon.
Those interested in the position can send their resume, cover letter and letters of reference to Pastor Tharp at email@example.com by May 31.
According to the job description posted online, the new director will be expected to develop and cultivate relationships with a broad range of stakeholders to include member churches, local service clubs, nonprofit organizations, businesses and the community; demonstrate a collaborative approach to addressing community needs; and direct overall activities in a holistic, multi-disciplinary team approach aimed at addressing the social determinants of health, increasing stability, and improving the overall quality of life for vulnerable residents of Jefferson County.
The position requires a baccalaureate or higher degree from an approved college or university, and a master of science degree in the social sciences is preferred. A minimum of two years of senior executive level experience is required, and salary will be based on experience in the range of $58,000 to $65,000 for 40 hours of work per week, with some evening, weekend and holiday commitments. According to the organization’s Form 990 from 2020, the latest available on GuideStar, Ms. Cole received $61,483 in compensation from the organization.
When talking about the ideal candidate, Pastor Tharp said if Ms. Cole had a twin, they’d love to interview her for the soon-to-be-vacated position. He said as far as the board is concerned, members were disappointed but not surprised that another agency would be interested in Ms. Cole being the leader.
“Dawn is one of the big reasons why the Urban Mission is in a good place now,” he said. “The big reason I think is because of her leadership, during a time of the lockdowns and COVID restrictions where the needs in the community were greater. She helped the Urban Mission step up to those needs in a big way. And not only that, but she rallied the community to start the CARE Center so that people could come to one place and get that help.”