After five years of serving as executive director of United Way of Clatsop County, Jennifer Holen has announced that she is stepping down from the position as of Jan. 31. The United Way of Clatsop County Board of Directors has named Kassia Nye, current workplace campaign coordinator, as executive director, replacing Holen, who served in that position for more than five years.
“It has been an honor and privilege to serve our community in this role,” Holen said. “I am forever grateful for the amazing team of our board of directors and our partner agencies that serve our community’s most vulnerable residents, offering hope and building bridges to better and more sustainable life. I am also proud to be part of a long history of individuals who have committed their time, investment, passion, and expertise in strengthening our local community.”
Holen is leaving the executive director’s position to spend more time with her family’s new venture, Nekst, a take-out friendly restaurant offering global street food at the foot of 12th Street. Holen and her husband, Chris, previously owned Baked Alaska restaurant, just east of Nekst, but after 20 years decided to close because of the pandemic.
Holen first began her association with United Way in 2005, serving as a volunteer and later spending seven years on the organization’s board of directors before becoming executive director in 2015. During Holen’s United Way tenure, utilizing her leadership and experience, the organization created the Iron Chef Goes Coastal fundraiser. Through the years it has become one of the region’s signature events, raising more than $750,000 since its inception.
During Holen’s tenure, she was recognized by the Astoria-Warrenton Area Chamber of Commerce, which awarded her its prestigious George Award in 2018 for her dedicated continual community service.
Board President Katrina Gasser said, “While Jennifer will certainly be missed as our executive director, we know she will continue to Live United in our community. We are thrilled to announce Kassia as our new executive director. Her energy and leadership are a perfect addition to our every-growing legacy of hand-raisers and game-changers, advancing the greater good in Clatsop County.”
Nye has fundraised for nonprofit organizations for almost 20 years. She joined the United Way staff in October of 2020 and began her role as executive director Feb. 1.
Prior to joining United Way, Nye was on staff with the Columbia Memorial Hospital Foundation, initially running its annual gifts program, and later serving as interim director. She currently serves as president of the Astoria Parks, Recreation and Community Foundation, which raises money to support scholarships for the aquatic center and youth sports and most recently, improvements for local trails.
“I went to my first Iron Chef goes Coastal event because I like people and food,” Nye said. “I didn’t know at that time that United Way fundraised to support local nonprofits helping people and families in our community. The cycle is brilliant, really. Those local nonprofits are vetted by the UWCC Board which means donations to UWCC go to well-run nonprofits meeting the greatest needs in the community. Plus, many of those agencies can leverage the UWCC funds for additional state and federal grants. We’re all working together to positivity impact our neighbors-- I’m thrilled to be part of that cycle.”
Nye also said she is looking forward to United Way of Clatsop County’s annual Day of Caring, scheduled April 17. She said other upcoming events are posted on United Way’s website at www.clatsopunitedway.org.