Maria Chavez Wilcox, CEO of Orange County United Way (OCUW) and a fixture among the county’s most notable charitable organizations, has resigned. A news release issued this morning by the board of the Irvine-based nonprofit reports that after three decades with the United Way, Wilcox plans to pursue other opportunities in the nonprofit and for-profit sectors.
Max Gardner, former president of the Irvine Co. Apartment Communities and current board vice chairman for OCUW, will serve as interim CEO on a volunteer basis until a replacement is found.
“This is not a precursor to anything more than that,” Gardner told OC METRO. “I am stepping in simply because there needs to be somebody at the helm on an interim basis. I’m happy to do so because I’m so familiar with the organization.”
A search is already under way for a replacement for Chavez Wilcox. OCUW is an independent affiliate of the United Way and the organization has no influence on who is hired, said Gardner.
“Our local board will make that decision,” he said.
When asked how Chavez Wilcox’s departure will impact the organization, Gardner said, “I think the most important thing is that Orange County United Way is in excellent shape. We have good inertia and momentum. This is as good a time as any for this to happen.”
Chavez Wilcox’s plans include joining her husband's nonprofit consulting firm, Third Sector Co.
“The board, staff and community-at-large acknowledge and appreciate the contribution Maria has made in helping to establish United Way as a philanthropic force in Orange County," said Al DeGrassi, chairman of the nonprofit's board, in a prepared statement. "Our 2009-10 campaign saw donations up a record 43 percent, to $25 million. With a strong organization in place and a team that is the ‘best of the best,’ we look forward to maintaining our momentum under new dynamic leadership. We all wish Maria the best in her new endeavors.”
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