United Way Director Leaving

The leader of the Salina Area United Way is leaving.

According to the organization, executive director Claire Ludes will be taking on a new role as the Senior Vice President of Development and Strategic Relationships at the Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, She will still reside in the Salina community after assuming this role.

“When I started as the Executive Director of the United Way, the organization was in a tough spot. What used to be a million-dollar organization, only brought in 340K my first year and then Covid only two months after starting, I thought how will I ever turn things around,” Ludes said. “Now I look back and think to myself, I left it better than I found it.”

During Ludes’ tenure, the Salina Area United Way started a Covid-19 Relief Fund, returned the organization to Funded Partners, launched the Early Childcare Initiative, receiving over $2 million in grant support to expand and open 4 new childcare centers and ended this past calendar year in bringing in over $1 million dollars for their campaign.

“Salina will still be home”, says Ludes. “I am thankful for all the relationships and support I have received from the community and hope to continue to still serve Salina in some capacity in my new role.”

“On behalf of the Salina Area United Way Board of Directors, we are saddened to see Executive Director, Claire Ludes leave”, says Tama Davidson, Salina Area United Way Board President. “Since her arrival as Executive Director in 2020, Claire led her staff and the Board in a return to funded partners, Make a Difference grants, successfully implemented and guided the childcare initiative to become a sustainable program, and rejuvenated community involvement and donor campaigns. Campaign goals increased under Claire’s direction and were met or exceeded the last two years. The United Way is a reliable community partner for local non-profits and funding has led to many new programs. We remain committed to improving the communities we serve.”

The Salina Area United Way Board of Directors has appointed Christina Small, Early Childcare Director, as the Interim Executive Director. Small has been on the United Way staff since April 2023, overseeing the childcare initiative.