Parent You Should Know: Ken Oldham, CEO, United Way of Frederick County

Ken Oldham

What’s the hardest part about juggling parenthood and your career?

I really think time constraints can be the largest challenge. I remember when I was commuting to The Music Center at Strathmore every day from Point of Rocks, and I was losing two-plus hours a day in my car. I was missing so much family time that I made the life-changing decision to work closer to home. That decision, although difficult, was among the best I’ve ever made.

What makes trying to balance both easier?

Two things come to mind. First, working for an organization that has a mission to bring solutions to working families allows us to lead by example. Our work-from-home hours have allowed me to be home to see my toddler son’s first steps, for example. I know our flexible work schedules are appreciated by the entire staff.

Secondly, technology has made flexible work schedules more effective than ever. While many are completely sick of Zoom, the fact is that our meeting attendance has improved, and we’re spending less time commuting and more time talking about strategy. I’m reminded every day, however, that many Frederick County ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) workers struggle with affordable housing, availability of child care and transportation. I think about grocery store clerks, construction workers and health care staff where in-person attendance at hourly wages is less than the cost of living. Other solutions are required to bring relief to these families.

What do you love about being a parent?

I grew up in a family with strong Hispanic roots. I’m the father of a 13-year-old mixed half-Filipino son and a toddler. I have wonderful relationships with my large extended family, my wife Melissa’s family and my older son’s mother’s family. What do I love about being a parent? I love the excitement, diversity and complexity of being a dad, a son, a husband, a brother and an uncle. We’re never bored … and that’s just the way we like it.

What do you think is your biggest parenting fail?

Parenting fail? Like the time when I forgot to flip on the child locks and my son jumped out of a moving car because there was a wasp in the cabin? Thankfully, everyone was OK, but that’s a mistake you make only once.

What’s the one thing you hope your children will learn from you and your career?

I hope they learn that serving others is a great privilege and that this world, this country and our community is full of disparities. The ALICE research is clear: Those who were least able to navigate any disruption in their families and jobs are those who have been most affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to uncover injustices and bring solutions. I hope they are our among the future’s hand raisers and problem solvers.

How does the work you do for United Way help Frederick County’s families?

United Way of Frederick County’s mission is to fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in Frederick County, especially those who are unable to afford basic necessities. We bring the Pathways to Financial Stability to ALICE families. We provide resources like the Unity Campaign to our nonprofit partners and advance critical information about our working families so that elected officials, voters, business leaders and the nonprofit community can make informed decisions that positively affect employees, families and the whole community.