Welcome Kelsey Camarena, Chief Philanthropy Officer
May 14, 2024  |  

Tell us a bit about yourself…

“I’m Kelsey Camarena, born and raised in Galax, Virginia. I went to Roanoke College for undergrad and am currently enrolled at Appalachian State for my MPA. I moved here from Winston-Salem, where I spent about 7 years in the nonprofit world. From the time I was little, I knew that I wanted to do good, and leave the world in a better place. I wasn’t sure what that looked like, as I am passionate about/care deeply for the common good for humans, animals, and the earth. Through a life coach, I learned my personal top core values are justice and equity. When I learned about United Way, a lightbulb went off. This was a concept, a community pillar that could strategically address root-cause issues and remove systemic barriers for families. I’ve been fully on board with that way of thinking ever since.”

“In my spare time I love to read, be anywhere outdoors, cook, and eat! I have a little fur-child, Luna, who is my 10-year old companion. Overall, I strive to be a safe space for people where people feel like they can be their best, most authentic self.”

What is a Chief Philanthropy Officer? What do you want to bring to that role?

“For me, the core of being a CPO is twofold: 1) is all about relationships- building and connecting long-lasting, trusting relationships.  2) is ensuring UWGT has the resources to continue our impactful work. I love what I do, because I get the opportunity to connect with people and organizations to learn about their passions, what they care about, and connect it with critical, incredible work happening in the Greater Triangle area. I want to ensure that every partner, donor, volunteer and advocate feels and understands that their investment in UWGT matters. Their support is why we’re able to remove barriers and make a positive impact for thousands of individuals throughout the greater Triangle.”

Welcome to the Triangle! Do you have any new favorites in the area? (food, stores, people, neighborhoods)

“Thanks! I have been steadily eating my way through the area. I definitely would welcome any recommendations for some favorite food spots (especially seafood!), but also any stores, or attractions I should check out. I’m looking forward to attending my first Canes and Bulls games!”

Who/what inspires you?

“I find inspiration in compassion and empathy. People giving each other a hand-up, finding commonality and comradery. . . watching children stick up for one another. . . the CEO that’s never too busy to make someone feel appreciated. . . the person who goes out of their way to make others feel seen. Life can be entirely too harsh or difficult without support from community.

Once, I had a former leader tell me to always, “Stay wimpy.” Meaning, always let the stories, the people, the circumstance, affect you and fill you with emotion, keep you connected. Still to this day I keep a picture on my desk with that message.”