WALLINGFORD — Maria Campos-Harlow will continue a lifelong love of community service in her new role as executive director of the United Way of Meriden and Wallingford.
“Organizations like United Way, Red Cross, United Way Nations — they were places where I always wanted to work,” Campos-Harlow said. “You have the opportunity to serve people, to help people, to improve their lives, to help those who, for some reason, they can't be self-sufficient, or they just need a little push to get better in their life. So that inspires me and that moves me constantly.”
Campos-Harlow, 46, will transition into the new role this summer and officially in the fall. She is currently executive director of the Spanish Community of Wallingford, a position she has held since 2010. She said the organization has started the search for a new executive director.
Campos-Harlow will succeed outgoing Executive Director James Ieronimo, who has held the position since 2006 and is leaving for personal reasons. Ieronimo said Campos-Harlow’s decade of experience in a community agency will benefit her in the new position.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for this United Way to have someone that knows the community,” Ieronimo said. “That familiarity sort of accelerates her ability to actually get to work.”
Through her position at SCOW, including three years on its board of directors and as chairman of the board, Campos-Harlow has worked extensively with United Way and other agencies in the community.
“There are different areas that organizations like (SCOW) work on, and having this experience gives me a better understanding about the needs and the roles of the other agencies that are funded through the United Way and that I will (have) better capacity to support,” Campos-Harlow said.
She said fundraising can be the biggest challenge for the organization and one that she will be at the forefront of as executive director.
“It is a challenge, these are difficult times, but at the same time, we live in a community where people really understand the value of supporting each other,” Campos-Harlow said. “People are very generous, very supportive, and because we have the programs and services that agencies that the United Way fund have to offer, the community is better off, the quality of life of a lot of the people in the community is better off.”
Campos-Harlow resides in Wallingford with her husband and 4-year-old daughter and feels embedded in a community she loves.
“I love this community, I think it is amazing,” Campos-Harlow said. “We have great community partners and excellent agencies...we make sure that things are done in the best possible way to support our community.”
She said she is looking forward to getting to know the Meriden community with the same depth she knows Wallingford.
United Way of Meriden and Wallingford supports about 20 local agencies with multiple programs. Campos-Harlow said the organization supports the agencies largely through funding, as well as connecting volunteers and donors, and helping the agency with capacity building and general advice.
Campos-Harlow has been recognized with numerous awards, including the Midstate Chamber of Commerce’s Excellence in Education Award in 2014, the Girls Inc.’s Smart, Strong and Bold Award in 2015, and Liberty Bank’s Willard M. McRae Community Diversity Award in 2015.