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St. Johns leader will head United Way of Florida

Melissa Nelson.jpg
United Way of St. Johns County
Melissa Nelson will become president and CEO of the United Way of Florida.

The head of the United Way in St. Johns County is moving on to a bigger job in the organization.

CEO and President Melissa Nelson has been selected to lead the state organization of 28 local United Ways.

Nelson has been with United Way of St. Johns since March 2014. During that time, the organization has more than doubled its efforts. Annual support has increased from $1.12 million in 2015 to $2.37 million in 2021. In 2019, the organization expanded to include Putnam County.

The organization also administered $1.2 million in CARES funds to individuals in Putnam County during Nelson’s tenure; added rolling Strategic Grants that focus solely on food insecurity, housing and mental health; and was recently tapped by St. Johns County Board of County Commission to handle the vetting and distribution of $7.7 million in American Rescue Plan Act Funds in St. Johns County.

“When I joined United Way, I committed to building relationships within our community, but underestimated the depth, strength and breadth of these connections," Nelson said in a news release. "Similarly, I could not have imagined the passion I would feel for our mission today.”

Jeff Hayward, United Way of Florida board chair, said the organization picked Nelson as someone who can "take the United Way of Florida to new heights."

“As a local United Way CEO who transformed the United Way of St. Johns County, Melissa possesses the interpersonal skills, business acumen and Florida legislative advocacy experience that make her the perfect choice to lead the organization,” Hayward said.

United Way of St. Johns said it will immediately launch a search for the organization’s next president and CEO.

“This is a bittersweet moment for United Way of St. Johns,” said Kelly Green, chair of the board of directors. “We celebrate this announcement with Melissa and with the United Way of Florida Network, but we will truly miss her passion, commitment and leadership here in our community. During Melissa’s time with us, we annually exceeded fundraising goals, initiated new programs and responded to two hurricanes and a pandemic. She has earned the trust and support of our community by demonstrating what it looks like to Live United.”