The United Way of South Central Oklahoma is welcoming a new face into the organization. After 15 years of service, Executive Director tobi daniel Ervin will be retiring this December, and Daela Echols has been selected to take on the position.


As a lifetime resident of Healdton with previous experience working for nonprofit organizations, Echols knows both the area and United Way. Before accepting the executive director position, Echols worked for five years at Lighthouse Behavioral Wellness Centers as the program manager of the crisis stabilization unit. Lighthouse is among the 37 United Way partner agencies, but her experience with United Way does not stop there.


“I’ve actually volunteered and sat on several boards with our partner agencies, so I’m familiar with a lot of them already,” Echols said. “I’ve always worked in the social services field. That’s where my passion is and always will be. That’s just where I’m drawn to.”


Echols said working for United Way will allow her to use her passion for helping others and reach as many people as possible.


“My mom told me when I was growing up to always leave the world in a better place than what it was when it was given to you, and that’s always been my philosophy,” Echols said. “My family has always been actively involved in volunteering in the community. And now I’m able to make a career out of my passion and help 37 agencies at the same time.”


Echols first day on the job was November 11, and she will officially take over after Ervin retires December 20. She’s spending this time with Ervin learning the ropes of the job and getting out to all of the partner agencies. One thing that has surprised her is just how nicely all of the agencies services dovetail, and how they partner with one another to do the most good possible.


“Working at Lighthouse, I always knew that there was interaction between the partner agencies, but it’s amazing just how involved every agency is with all the others and how they work together to change people’s lives,” Echols said.


One thing she plans to focus on in the future is getting the surrounding counties more actively involved with United Way.


“Carter County is absolutely amazing and they are totally on-board with everything,” Echols said. “The other counties don’t have quite that same level of participation, so I’d like to help them realize what a difference the United Way can make. The sky's the limit, and I’m absolutely looking forward to seeing United Way continue to grow and share in that excitement.”


Echols urged anyone interested in helping United Way achieve this growth to reach out to her.


“If you want to be a United Way sponsor, please get in touch with me,” Echols said. “If you are interested in getting involved as a volunteer or even just have questions about what we’re all about, please reach out.”


Echols can be reached at daela@uwsco.org, and more information about United Way of South Central Oklahoma can be found at www.uwsco.org.