Search for Urban League leader has yet to start

Search for Urban League leader has yet to start
December 11
00:00 2014

The Winston-Salem Urban League is still without a permanent leader, nearly a year after its former president and CEO departed.

Don Williams was named the interim president/CEO in February. At the time, Board Chair Evelyn Acree said he would serve in that role for a minimum of three months and a maximum of six months. It’s been 10 months since Williams’ appointment.



“The (Winston-Salem Urban League) Board has not begun the search for the permanent president and CEO,” Acree, senior VP and Piedmont Triad Regional executive for Mechanics & Farmers Bank, said Monday. “The board will make a decision on when the search will begin in the near future.”

Former leader Keith Grandberry resigned after some on the board questioned his leadership and abilities to manage the agency. Williams, a retired Lowe’s Home Improvement executive who is a former member and chairman of the local Urban League Board, said the board quickly determined after he was hired that he would need more than six months to fix some of the agency’s longstanding problems.

“There are a few more things we need to get squared away,” Williams said. “I will be here as long as the board needs me.”

Fixing the agency’s financial house and its physical house (renovations are planned at its aging 201 W. 5th St. headquarters) are top priorities, Williams said. This year has been dedicated to getting the nonprofit organization into financial compliance to satisfy recent audits conducted by funders like the City of Winston-Salem and the federal government. All of the Urban League’s programs are regulated. The 61-year-old organization lists six programs on its website. All are designed to alleviate poverty through education and skills development. Williams said two more programs will be added next year – Project Ready to help students decide their post-high school plans and At Opportunity to channel students into Project Ready.

“The programs are solid. We just need to say what we do and do it well,” said Williams.

He believes the agency is “still having to rebuild our image” resulting from rumors that “corruption” led to the agency’s leadership change.

“I think that’s what people want to believe,” said Williams, who calls such talk misconceptions.

Winston-Salem and Charlotte have the only two Urban League offices in the state. Williams said the local office serves more than the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County area. Its services reach residents who live as far away as the Triangle.  One program, the federally-funded Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), serves residents in 18 counties in northwest North Carolina. Funded by the U.S. Department of Labor, the program places older workers at nonprofit agencies for job training. They receive a minimum-wage stipend while in the program, which is not designed to employ people but to train them.

The Urban League also administers  a summer jobs program for teens and a job readiness program for adults of all ages. The agency offers computer skills courses as well.

The programs take money, Williams said. He said the Urban League receives funds from the United Way, partner businesses and organizations, various governments and donations. But it needs more.

Fundraising will be one of the primary jobs of the permanent president and CEO, Williams said. He said the next leader also should be service-oriented and have an understanding of the Urban League’s programs.

Williams said he does not want the permanent position but will stay as long as he is needed and useful.

“The thing that I struggle with is, can I help? Am I helping?” he said.

If he becomes a hinderance more than a help, Williams said he would be willing to leave.

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Donna Rogers

Donna Rogers

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