Kimball Leads Innovative Efforts to Help All Fairfield County Children Thrive
BRIDGEPORT, CT -- The Board of Directors of United Way of Coastal Fairfield County (UWCFC) has appointed Jeff Kimball of Westport as its new President and Chief Executive Officer. Kimball assumes the role from Merle Berke-Schlessel, who retired after 17 years at the helm.
“During this time of innovation, there is no one better to lead the UWCFC team than Jeff Kimball,” noted Samuel B. Tingley, Jr., Chairman of the Board of Directors. “Jeff is a proven leader in growing non-profits, and his work building programs in the public and private sectors translates well as we look to scale the impact of our innovative work.”
Kimball has a track record of growth and is known for his innovative and creative approaches to making non-profits more effective. Previously, he significantly expanded revenue, donors, and programs at three Fairfield County nonprofits: Experience Camps for Grieving Children, Circle of Care for Families of Children with Cancer, and Greens Farms Academy. He exceeded development goals year over year, and in one case, raised more during his tenure than in the previous 85 years combined.
Kimball is eager to increase funding for and grow the impact of United Way initiatives, especially the cradle to career work being incubated through Bridgeport Prospers. “We are laying a foundation for children’s success by designing and building opportunities for families, neighborhoods and communities to be healthy, stable and successful. That’s why we’re focused on transparently and honestly addressing the underlying causes and working collaboratively with partner organizations to make change on the program, system, and policy levels,” noted Kimball.
For example, the “Healthy and Ready by Three” initiative works to ensure school readiness by focusing on the early years, when 80% of a child’s brain growth occurs. “Because this period lays the foundation for all future development, investments in the earliest quality childhood programs show the highest rate of return. This is realized through better education, health, and social outcomes,” said Kimball.
For this initiative, United Way is operating on several fronts. First, United Way is advocating on state and local levels to increase depression screenings for new and expectant moms. “A healthy child depends on a healthy mom” said Kimball. “We’re also advocating for Medicaid coverage of Doula Care, which has been shown to improve maternal and infant outcomes, especially among women of color,” he added. Further, United Way is also working to connect medical data systems to support resources for the parents and children identified in need. “Overall, addressing community needs at the policy and systems level will ensure long-term funding and structure for proven initiatives,” noted Kimball.
Additionally, to help foster nurturing relationships between caregivers and children, United Way has launched The Basics, a science-based parent education program with five easy practices that build young brains, and is working to expand Sparkler, a mobile app to help parents support and monitor their child’s development.
Because reading proficiency is the key to school success, United Way is expanding early literacy programs to provide books and reading coaching to families. “Those who read on-level in third grade are much more likely to graduate high school, attend college, and achieve career success. But as few as one in three actually meets this benchmark.”
In addition to preparing young children for school success, United Way is working to help prepare all children for career success. “Our STEM Learning Ecosystem is working to provide quality learning opportunities in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math to children from Pre-K to 12th grade. “We aim to put students on a path to a promising future, since STEM careers are growing at twice the rate of those in other fields,” said Kimball.
Further, United Way has launched a Resilience initiative designed to build trauma-informed communities. “Unaddressed trauma limits life and health outcomes,” said Kimball. “Our initiative seeks to raise awareness of the impact of trauma and build resiliency skills in the community across all age groups. This work is very important to me, personally and professionally,” Kimball added.
To advance the three initiatives, United Way is working with over 100 partners in multiple sectors: healthcare, education, business and industry, government, faith, non-profit, and community service.
Although changing programs, systems, and policy is a challenge, Kimball brings a wealth of experience in branding, communications, and public policy to the task. He served as Deputy Press Secretary and later Campaign Manager for Sen. John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, where he managed strategy, fundraising, communications, and media relations. As Director of Public Affairs for the American Academy of Pediatrics, Kimball pushed successfully for children’s healthcare reform. And as Managing Director of the Advocom Group, he helped advance non-profits and start-ups ranging from an online educational learning platform to therapeutics for degenerative brain diseases and developmental disorders.
Kimball is drawn to the United Way because of his family’s strong roots in Fairfield County, and because of its work helping those who face difficulties reach their potential. “I now work on the same street where my grandmother started a business as a single woman in the 1940s, and where my mother started her commercial real estate business as a single woman in the 1970s. I know what it’s like to struggle, as one who was raised by a single parent, as a widower, as a single parent myself, and as a family that has experienced its share of difficult times – like so many families in Fairfield County. I grew up in Trumbull, lived in Easton, Fairfield and now Westport, my brothers live in Monroe and Greenwich, and I ran a non-profit in Wilton with reach into every town in Fairfield County. So I am familiar with the pain and problems families face, and I want to do everything I can to provide relief, and to challenge and change the underlying systems so that every child has the best possible shot at realizing her potential. We are doing this, and it’s so exciting.”
In his spare time, Jeff is a single parent to two daughters, a painter, screenplay writer, and book author. His Power of Conviction is a biography of James Tillman, who spent 18 years in prison after a wrongful conviction.
“Jeff Kimball has the unanimous support of our board,” commented Tingley, Board of Directors chair. “His selection came after a national search and a thoughtful approach that our partners, employees, and initiatives deserve. We look forward to his leadership.”
United Way of Coastal Fairfield County’s mission is “Together, we mobilize our communities to improve people’s lives.” Our vision is that all children in coastal Fairfield County are successful in school and prepared for success in life. UWCFC serves the towns of Bridgeport, Darien, Easton, Fairfield, Monroe, New Canaan, Norwalk, Stratford, Trumbull, Weston, Westport, and Wilton.
Bridgeport Prospers’ mission is to work collectively as a community of stakeholders to have a positive, measurable, and sustainable impact on outcomes for all children and families, from cradle to career. We focus on a set of seven outcomes, from kindergarten readiness through high school graduation and career readiness. Bridgeport Prospers is a member of StriveTogether, a national nonprofit network of 70 communities with a clear purpose: helping every child succeed in school and in life, cradle to career, regardless of race, zip code or circumstance. The initiative receives backbone support from United Way of Coastal Fairfield County.
Marketing & Communications Director
United Way of Coastal Fairfield County