Most Impactful Executive Director

Ann Bax has a pottery dish on her desk, handmade by her daughter years ago, with the quote, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” It serves as a loving reminder of family, but also of her mission to help people as president of the United Way of Central Missouri. It is a role she lives and breathes every single day.

United Way partners with 28 nonprofit health and human services agencies that help people with the most need in our community — the homeless, the hungry, the powerless — and work to provide health, education, financial stability, and basic needs for those individuals. United Way serves seven different counties in Mid-Missourii: southern Callaway, Camden, Cole, Osage, Miller, Moniteau, and Morgan.

A Jefferson City native, Bax’s history with United Way started years ago, during high school, when she served her Christian service hours at United Way agencies. She also led the United Way company campaign for Modern Business Systems when she worked there before going to work for her family business. In 2010, she took the helm as president for the United Way, and she’s never looked back.

“The most rewarding part of being an executive director is incorporating your passion. I grew up here and love this community,” Bax says. “It’s all of our responsibility to make it the best it can be. It’s rewarding to play a small role in that.”

Bax and her staff found themselves thrust into a new role when a devastating tornado hit Jefferson City in May 2019. United Way quickly became a key link in mobilizing volunteers, managing donations, and bringing other agencies and faith-based groups together. Resources not only needed to mobilize quickly, but also needed to be dealt with in an organized, methodical system. It was a learning curve for everyone, but a valuable reminder about the heart of this community.

“I didn’t always know who to call, but I would start and each person would help me find the next person or the next person after
that. It was a sad and scary time, but we had hope because we were all leaning on each other,” Bax says.

“It’s all of our responsibility to make it the best it can be. It’s rewarding to play a small role in that.”

While the short-term recovery efforts were intense, the long-term efforts that are happening now are equally important, including dispensing the dollars of the United Way Disaster Recovery Fund directly to storm survivors. Additionally, United Way funding is also being used to address critical unmet needs, such as paying insurance deductibles, which are a barrier to settling with insurance companies, and paying past-due utility bills, which are a barrier to rehousing disaster survivors. While the process can seem slow at times, Bax says disaster recovery experts tell her that our local process is much faster than other communities.

“We have a lot of work to do, but we have so much to celebrate and be thankful for,” Bax notes. “Through this heart-wrenching time where our community has been tested beyond anything in recent memory, at the end of this journey, we’ll be a better community with stronger partnerships, and we’ll be better able to serve.”

Those strong partnerships were again evident during the United Way’s annual giving campaign last July through October. Bax knew it would be one of the most important fundraising campaigns they’ve had because the needs of the partner agencies had been amplified by the tornado. The goal for the campaign was $2.1 million, and our community gave even more, for a total of $2.22 million.

While exceeding the campaign goal is something worth celebrating, Bax is already focused on next steps, including figuring out how partner agencies can work together with those dollars to serve people cohesively and collaboratively in Mid-Missouri. She knows she can’t solve all the problems, but she never gives up on working to be that change.

“I talk to people daily that are in need and we get to help them through hard times,” Bax says. “I had no idea all the wonderful volunteers I would meet. I’ve been changed for the better by the people working tirelessly for this community.”