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River Cities United Way made strides during CEO's tenure

Gene Apedaile

KINGMAN - When Gene Apedaile took over as president and chief executive officer of River Cities United Way five years ago, he made a big promise.

"There was no structure when I came here," said Apedaile. "The former CEO had passed away from cancer and there was no one in charge for a while. Then a man came in and stayed for a year. When I took over, despite the situation, I promised I would stay for three to five years and I made good on that."

Apedaile, 66, will retire at the end of June from River Cities United Way, which has offices in Lake Havasu City, Bullhead City and Kingman. The organization is composed of 30 partner agencies providing 57 programs in the three cities, Mohave and La Paz counties and all the small towns along the Colorado River.

He plans to continue living in Lake Havasu City and travel to spend time with his children and grandchildren after retirement.

Before joining RCUW, Apedaile served as vice president of resource development for Spokane County United Way in Washington state from 1995 to 2008. Apedaile said the first thing he did when taking over here was to provide training opportunities for the staff, who had no guidance in what they should be doing. Apedaile said he also had to fire some employees who weren't team players.

"I was in the military for 26 years, and structure is very important to me," he said. "And despite the economic downturn, we're doing fine and our fundraising response is good. We have fewer employees now, but they're doing their jobs well. Everything is streamlined here, and I feel very comfortable about where the organization will be when I leave for retirement."

Apedaile said he is most proud of the agency's fundraising efforts since he arrived. The first year of his term, it brought in $500,000, which was more than RCUW had ever raised. This year, the organization has raised $550,000 of its $605,000 goal, and Apedaile expects to have the remainder by the end of June. Also, Apedaile said he is proud of the successful consolidation in 2009 of several agencies into the River Cities United Way.

Another success for the organization is a decrease in fundraising and administrative costs, said Apedaile, which were 18.5 percent when he took over, and climbed to 23 percent during the consolidation. Through belt-tightening efforts over the past several years, RCUW fundraising and administrative costs have fallen to 6.2 percent, which Apedaile said is "truly phenomenal" for a non-profit organization.

A search is currently under way for Apedaile's replacement. RCUW Board Chairman Lorraine Leeming said the board received numerous applications and has whittled them down to a small group of serious contenders. Leeming said a successor will be chosen and in office by June so Apedaile has time to show the new employee the ropes. She said Apedaile will continue to help out the organization as needed after he retires.

"When Gene came here, he brought us stability and very strong leadership," said Leeming. "He took us through the merger and had what we needed to get us to the next level. He's just remarkable, and we've got some very big shoes to fill. This has been more than a job to him - it's his passion. He will be greatly missed."


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