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United Way changes leadership

Tara Donohue Weiss poses for a photo with United Way of Hastings board member John Callahan at her farewell party. (Star Gazette photo by Katrina Styx)

For the past 11 years, Tara Donohue Weiss has led the United Way of Hastings as its executive director, guiding it through years of changes and helping it become an organization that's truly focused on the community.

It wasn't an easy decision, she said, but Donohue Weiss recently announced her resignation.

"I truly believe that there comes a time when an organization needs new insight, fresh perspective, and I think that was part of my decision to leave," she said.

Donohue Weiss joined the United Way in September of 2002. She was reentering the workforce and had some knowledge and experience with the United Way's work through a summer sports adaptive sports program with which she had been involved.

Since then, she's seen the United Way parent organization go through some big changes that have helped her and the United Way of Hastings make an impact locally. When she started, she said, the United Way was primarily a fundraising organization. In Hastings, she focused on raising money and funding other organizations that were doing good things. About two years later, though, the focus shifted. The United Way wanted to be an impact organization, one that addressed the root cause of needs in the community. It's a change that Donohue Weiss said probably inspired her to stay with the organization.

Here in Hastings, that change led her and the United Way of Hastings to work with Hastings Family Service to address the deeper problems people who use that organization faced. They started looking at how they deliver services to better address the reasons why people came to Hastings Family Service in the first place.

And that was just one project. The United Way of Hastings has made direct impacts on literacy and early literacy through programs like the Imagination Library and Hastings Reads.

"We've done a lot of really positive things in the community," Donohue Weiss said.

One of Donohue Weiss's strengths has been her ability to be a positive spokesperson for the United Way of Hastings' mission, said Brian Schommer, president of the United Way of Hastings board of directors.

Schommer has worked with Donohue Weiss for about four years, and he's seen her drive, passion and personality turn her projects into successes.

"She's just a phenomenal person in general," he said. "She's very much dedicated to the mission of the United Way and very dedicated to the community of Hastings."

Deciding to leave was a difficult decision, Donohue Weiss said. It's been a good fit both for her and her family, she said, and the organization's mission is very much in alignment with her own ideals.

"I really have enjoyed this job," she said.

At the same time, she sees a lot of potential for what the United Way of Hastings can do here, and said that the organization needs a fresh perspective to make it happen.

Once she finishes work this week, she said she plans to take some time off, spend time with her children and possibly travel a bit. Going back to school is a possibility, she said, and she's looking forward to new challenges. She'll still be involved here, as well. One program she'll continue to work with is the new youth initiative, Helping Kids Succeed the Hastings Way.