Kristie Haefner – Board Member
Kristie Haefner calls herself the eternal board member of the United Way of West Central Minnesota, and for good reason. Serving with the board in some capacity since 2014, Kristie feels that service to her community is part of who she is, and her passion for the programs and support provided by the United Way has never wavered. While her specific role with the organization has shifted as the years have passed, and many changes have taken place, Kristie has no intention of lessening her involvement. She has seen and heard first-hand the many stories about United Way’s impact in our communities and is genuinely honored to serve.
Kristie was born and raised in Wadena, MN. She attended Ridgewater College in Willmar, MN, and then Winona State University to earn her degree in Human Resources. Following her graduation and given the strong friendships and connections she had made in the Willmar area, Kristie returned for good. She has been married to her husband Travis for 11 years, and she is a mom to son Gabriel and daughter Madelyn. She has a passion for reading and learning and spends her free moments with her family. Kristie also enjoys being active, especially running, and loves a good round of golf. As a mom, watching her kids in their sports and activities has become a new favorite pastime.
Kristie considers herself fortunate for her past and current employers who have been so supportive of the United Way, and her involvement with it. Her employer, Doosan Bobcat is currently in the midst of their fall giving campaign, and she is passionate about sharing the value and importance of giving with her co-workers. Recently, like many other community partners, the company participated in a Day of Caring, and gave of their time as well. These efforts not only make a lasting impact, but they are phenomenal opportunities for teamwork and encouragement within the companies who support the United Way as well.
As an HR professional, the United Way initially approached her regarding her employer’s corporate United Way campaign. It was this connection that led to joining the board. Initially, Kristie knew very little about the United Way and what it does, but still accepted the invitation and has never regretted it. Up to that point, her relationship with the United Way was professional. Soon after her joining, she signed her son up for free books through United Way’s Imagination Library program and the relationship turned personal. In fact, she attributes her son’s academic success today to the early childhood reading provided by the program. Now, her daughter is eagerly looking forward to getting books like her big brother had. It may surprise many people just how many families and individuals we are actively serving. The stories of these people become personal and are one of the reasons Kristie has continued to give of her time and financial support for as long as she has.
Kristie shares that some view the United Way as a “handout” and are hesitant to accept charity. In fact, the programs we develop and the non-profit organizations we support are much more than simply giving a handout. In fact, many supported programs, such as United Community Action Partnership’s Tax Preparation program. Instead of simply doing a person’s taxes, they provide education and counsel to help for the long term. Other programs such as the Growmobile support us all, providing invaluable support and resources for local preschool children and their caretakers.
Kristie believes that the United Way is just as valuable to those who volunteer and donate as those who are using the programs. Having experienced this herself, she now involves her son and encourages his own volunteerism. She wants him to know the value and importance of serving one’s community, and to experience the powerful stories himself. Kristie encourages everyone to get to know the United Way’s programs, as well as the other local non-profit organizations and consider getting involved. It is an eye-opening experience and shows that there are real needs here in our area, and we all can have a role in making a lasting impact and creating lasting change.
One aspect of the community service and non-profit organizations in our area that impressed Kristie most was the level of cooperation and communication between them. Instead of programs competing against one another, they seek to prevent overlapping services to provide greater resources and greater access to meet critical needs in the areas of health, education, and basic needs. This is so important as community needs shift over time. As an example, the COVID pandemic has caused an unprecedented increase in the need for mental health services among all age groups. Understanding these needs is the first step in providing support to address them.
If there is one thing Kristie would like to get across, it is the value in simply getting to know the United Way. Stay connected with our newsletters and social media, attend our events like Brew Ha Ha or Power of the Purse, and begin to experience the difference that is being made by our volunteers and supporters. If you do, it is likely you will find something that impacts you, the way Kristie was impacted when she first was involved. Once a person understands how valuable and life-changing the work we are doing can be, it’s unlikely they wouldn’t want to become more involved themselves.
Kristie has come full-circle, from member-at-large, to board president, and now once again a member-at-large and is just as passionate now as she ever has been. Recently, she told Executive Director, Kevin Dietrich that even after she’s kicked out, she will find a way to serve. The United Way has become a part of her. It is so important during these challenging times that everyone in our community has what they need and are provided with opportunities to grow and prosper. Everyone who supports the United Way is supporting their communities and all who reside in them. We invite you to partner with us in whatever capacity you are able. Together, we can make our area a better place to live and work for everyone and help all of us to thrive.