Sunday, June 23, 2024
Executive Q&A

Meet Kaylin Bettinger, Executive Director of Upper Valley MEND

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Kaylin Bettinger stepped into the executive director position at Upper Valley MEND in 2016 after working in communications for the nonprofit organization since 2014. With a background in social services, community organizing, journalism and education Bettinger is a good fit for the mission of MEND.

MEND works to Meet Each Need with Dignity for people in the Upper Wenatchee Valley region by providing support in food, housing, wellness and economic security. We caught up with Bettinger recently to learn more about her and her goals for the organization.

Tell our readers a little bit about yourself.

I moved to the Wenatchee Valley to work at Stevens Pass and enjoy all of the area’s outdoor activities in 2011. I planned to stay for a year, before looking for a “real job” in a city, but fell in love with Leavenworth – both the outdoor recreation and the community – and made it my permanent home. I enjoy that my job allows me to help make a tangible difference in the lives of people in my own community, and can see the impact of my work every day.

Please tell our readers about Upper Valley MEND.

MEND stands for “Meeting Each Need with Dignity.” Upper Valley MEND is a human services nonprofit organization that serves the Upper Wenatchee Valley region, including Leavenworth, Cashmere, and the areas surrounding those communities. Founded in 1988, MEND provides support in the areas of food, housing, wellness and economic security. A staff of around 20 people and hundreds of volunteers work to provide a safety net for people in the Upper Valley.

What led you to this position?

My education is in journalism, and my first role with MEND was in communications. It quickly became clear what an amazing organization MEND was, and I was honored to become the Executive Director in 2016 when the past Executive Director retired.

What are you most looking forward to in your role as executive director at UV MEND?

It’s been a great ride so far. In my time here, the organization has expanded. We moved our thrift store in 2018 to its own standalone location, now called Das Thrift Haus, which has grown into a very well loved little thrift store. At that time, our food bank transitioned to a grocery-style food pantry, where people can shop for the food they want using points, like a little grocery store. We hired a full-time social worker in 2020, which has allowed the organization to help support people who have more diverse needs. We purchased 31 apartment units in 2023 with the goal of keeping them affordable for folks who work in the local workforce. That exciting campaign is called Solid Foundations, and people can learn more about it at our website, uvmend.org/solidfoundations.

What does a normal day look like as executive director at UV MEND?

It varies a lot by the day. Lots of meetings, with staff, our board of directors, volunteers, or our clients. Often I get to spend time on site at our programs, talking with the people we serve and understanding the things we do well, and the things we can improve.

What is your favorite part of your job and why?

I feel very lucky to get to work with a great group of people. Our staff, board, and volunteers are all people who care a lot for their community, enjoy each other, and generally like to have fun. Working with them is my favorite part of my job.

What are some of your goals for UV MEND?

My goals for the organization are for us to live up to our mission of Meeting Each Need with Dignity. I have a goal of excellence for each of our programs, regardless of how that program is helping to work towards our mission. In most of our programs, that means reducing barriers for people who could benefit from our programs, and having great customer service for everyone who walks through our doors. I also have a goal of taking good care of our staff and volunteers, and ensuring this is a meaningful and impactful place to be involved.

Who or what inspires you?

I’m inspired by a lot of Upper Valley MEND’s clients. Many people have experienced a lot of challenge and struggle in their lives. It can be very hard to ask for help, in some cases so much so that people will struggle on their own. I’m inspired by the people who visit our programs, many of whom are trying to improve their lives and find stability. I’m inspired by their courage.

What do you like to do with your free time?

When I’m not at work, you can find me in the mountains or on the river, spending time with my husband and two-year-old daughter, or enjoying the company of friends.

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