Originally, Chris Reed thought he would spend his life as a teacher.
"I really saw a future for myself in education, possibly with a little coaching as well," said the Oklahoma native, who joined the Board of United Way of Northern Arizona five years ago.
While he was attending community college, however, he began teaching Sunday School to 5th and 6th grade boys at his local church. It was work he enjoyed, he got terrific feedback from the kids, and before long, people began asking if he had ever thought of pursuing ministry work.
"There was just a strong sense of calling towards young people," he said. "It was very similar to the work I had been planning for myself, but instead of teaching math and history, I would be teaching scripture and helping young people work on their spiritual life."
He attended Manhattan Christian College in Kansas, where he met his wife, Kristi. After graduation, he became active in church ministry in Tucson and Phoenix, before becoming the Executive Pastor at Christ's Church in 2010. When the church's founder, Jim Dorman, retired in 2016, Chris assumed the role of Senior Pastor.
Not too long after that, a member of the church, Rich Bowen of Genterra Enterprises, suggested Chris should become involved with UWNA. Chris also heard a lot about UWNA from another Board member, Gabe Smith of Kinney Construction Services Inc., who was part of Chris' Flagstaff Leadership Program cohort.
"I wanted to become more involved with the community, and volunteering for the United Way just felt like a natural extension of the work our church does," Chris said. "So many partners that United Way works with are organizations we work with as well."
Chris said that he feels one of UWNA's strongest benefits to the community is being a catalyst during times of crisis.
"The last few years particularly, with the pandemic and fires and floods, have shown that when the unexpected happens, United Way can handle it," he said.
He added that he also appreciates the work UWNA does to step up for our youth, noting that if issues with early education and basic needs are dealt with while children are young, it increases the chances of breaking systemic cycles of poverty or illiteracy that can impact multiple generations.
He urged people not to take organizations like UWNA for granted.
"Don't assume that we don't need your help, because we do," he said. "Look for a place where you can get involved. Maybe it's making a donation or maybe it's donating your time. Use some of your resources for good. If just a few more people would do that, there's no telling what we could do for northern Arizona."