United Way of St. Johns Announces Transition of CEO Melissa Nelson

The United Way of Florida Board of Directors announced Melissa Nelson, current CEO and President of United Way of St. Johns County, has been named the new CEO and President of the state organization of 28 local United Ways. 

“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.” 

“We conducted a comprehensive search for a leader who can take the United Way of Florida to new heights and found the skill set we need in Melissa Nelson,” said Jeff Hayward, United Way of Florida Board Chair. “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,” he added. 

Nelson has been with United Way of St. Johns since March 2014. During that time, the organization has more than doubled in 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. Known for the traditional annual funding of nonprofits, during Nelson’s tenure with the organization, the organization also administrated $1.2 million in CARES funds to individuals in Putnam County; 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. Similarly, I could not have imagined the passion I would feel for our mission today,” said Nelson. This very passion led to my acceptance of the position as CEO of United Way of Florida where I will have the best of both worlds – the continued mission of St. Johns and Putnam County and an expanded focus to all parts of our state. Of course, I must also share how much I appreciate the trust, support and generous friendships of our board, staff, partners and community. Thank you to all that allowed me to be part of what we have built together.” 

United Way of St. Johns will immediately launch the search for the organization’s next president and CEO. Throughout this search and transition, United Way and its community partners will continue their important work addressing immediate challenges of individuals and families in Putnam and St. Johns County while also making long-term investments that tackle the root causes of these issues. 

“United Way of St. Johns has been around since 1957, and although our organization and our counties have changed a lot over the years, our goal hasn’t,” said Joe Pickens chairman-elect of United Way of St. Johns. “Since day one, we’ve addressed tough problems and offered a hand up to our neighbors. As we work together to identify a new leader, our mission will continue by working with our partners in the community – businesses, nonprofits, faith organizations, government, residents and volunteers.