Friesen Leads United Way Of Mahaska County Into A New Decade

United Way of Mahaska County Executive Director Michella Friesen. (submitted photo)

Oskaloosa, Iowa – Michella Friesen stepped into a relatively new position to help out after the departure of Timothy Gibson in the summer of 2019. Friesen was named interim director shortly afterward, while the board searched for a new director.

They didn’t have to search long, and Friesen was named the new Executive Director.

Friesen is married to William Penn Track Coach Allen Friesen and is the mother of four children.

The couple found their way to Oskaloosa after the college Allen had been coaching at abruptly closed, and ten years later, they continue to call Oskaloosa home.

Michella is no stranger to serving others, as she’s worked in the social service part of the community, and spent a good deal of time, having volunteered with the Girls Scouts in Oskaloosa for the past ten years, and twenty-five years in total. Michella also volunteers her time at church.

Michella’s formal training wasn’t in the social services; she intended to be an athletic trainer. “I think that when you go to school, and you say to a child, really at 18 you’re still a child, what are you going to do with the rest of your life? That’s a really hard decision.”

“I think that as I started to grow and move forward in my life, that it just seemed that I should be doing something different. So that’s how I got into the human service field.”

On her heart of service, Michella says, “I think I can classify it as my God-given talents to work with people and to see how we can change society.”

Michella was working part-time at Mahaska County United Way, before being named the interim director. “I was really excited because I was thinking my brain needs more work. It definitely has more work now, which is exciting. I really enjoyed that whole interim piece.”

As she continued to serve in that interim role, she began to think, “this is such a nice fit for me. I’m hoping that it becomes permanent, and so I was very excited when it became permanent.”

Michella is enjoying the variety the position offers her. “It sounds odd, but you never know how your day is going to be. It’s something different all the time. It gives you challenges.”

“One of the things I’m trying to do more is get out in the public and make sure that people know what United Way does and how we function, how we work,” added Michella.

Stepping into the most significant fundraising time also presented some new challenges for the new executive director, in addition to learning all the other aspects of the position, such as preparing for the summer lunch program.

When asked why a person should consider giving money to United Way, Michella says that the organization “looks at how can our dollars fill the gaps.”

The food programs such as summer lunch and take-home food program for kids in the county is one of those.

Many are familiar with the summer lunch program that helps provide meals to those under 18 while school is out. The take-home meal program provides food for kids who are hungry on the weekend.

In addition to those internal programs, the United Way also helps to fund other non-profit programs in the community each year.

Those non-profit organizations write a grant to the United Way. In February, community members will be a part of the process in deciding where those funds go to help fill the needs in the community.

Michella says that one of her goals for the United Way of Mahaska County is to talk more about the volunteers and why they’re so important, “because I truly believe that giving doesn’t just mean cash. Giving is your time, and it’s your passions, and it’s your money. So you actually can do all of that at United Way, or through our affiliate partners. We run a lot of internal programs that you can help with.”

“I think that everybody can find something that they’re interested in or passionate about through volunteering,” added Michella.

If you would like to know more about the United Way of Mahaska County, you can find them at 500 High Avenue West in Oskaloosa, or online at

Posted by on Nov 29 2019. Filed under Local News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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