Charlie Weidanz, longtime head of two Bay Area YMCAs, will take the helm of Palo Alto nonprofit Abilities United, the organization has announced.
Weidanz began his new position as executive director on June 30, replacing Lynda Steele, who officially retired the same day after serving as executive director since 1993.
The organization helps children and adults with developmental and other disabilities in Santa Clara and San Mateo counties to live independently and to gain community acceptance.
Weidanz brings more than 30 years of nonprofit leadership experience to the job, having served as the executive director at organizations across the United States. He spent 24 years as executive director of Bay Area and East Coast YMCAs. He has a personal passion for supporting those with disabilities and has been an innovator in inclusive programs throughout his life, Abilities United's board of directors said in a statement.
In an interview, Weidanz said he will focus in the immediate future on redevelopment plans and an expansion of programs and services in the community. He will also work on the completion of the organization's "United for the Future" fundraising campaign, which is currently underway. He wants to expand services to not only "how to be impactful with current needs of the community but also to their emerging needs in the future," he said.
To that end, Weidanz plans to look at providing services for the aging population of persons with developmental disabilities and its seniors.
In his work with the YMCA, he worked to develop all-inclusive activities and programs that included persons with disabilities. He is proud of developing an all-inclusive playground "with no borders" that was open to the whole family, he said.
Much of his work has been in aquatics, and rebuilding the therapeutic Betty Wright Swim Center, which closed due to overwhelming repair costs, is a major component of the agency's redevelopment plan, he said.
"We are thrilled to have someone as experienced as Mr. Weidanz to take over leadership of the agency," said Board of Directors President Karen Moore. "His non-profit leadership skills, expertise in programmatic areas for children and adults, including aquatic services, and demonstrated commitment to inclusion, are a great match for Abilities United."
As a senior executive, primarily with the YMCA, Weidanz has worked in a variety of communities including Milpitas, San Francisco, New York City, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He prides himself in creating a collaborative culture at all levels, according to the statement. His skills include financial management, fund development, program creation and execution, and staff development.
"This highly respected agency and the passion and commitment of the staff, volunteers, donors and partners greatly impress me," Weidanz said in a separate statement.
"I am excited to build on Abilities United's strong foundation and to bring my experience to benefit the organization and position it for its future. We will continue to adapt to the growing and emerging needs of our community. ... I proudly take the reins as we strive to make Abilities United a lead agency that drives the true inclusion of people of all abilities."
The organization will soon post a series of opportunities for the public to meet Weidanz on its website.