CEO Kathy Bragg retires

Melissa McKeown takes reins

The Community Shelter of Union County is getting a new executive with the retirement of longtime Chief Executive Officer Kathy Bragg. The board of directors has named Chief Operating Officer Melissa McKeown to succeed Bragg in December.

Bragg has led the Community Shelter for nearly 10 years, culminating a 30-year career in public service.

“My career has truly been a labor of love,” Bragg said. “It has allowed me to build capacity in several nonprofits that serve Union County citizens. I am both grateful and honored to have had the opportunity to combine my business skill sets with a purpose to help others throughout my career.”

During her tenure, the Community Shelter brought new resources and programming to the agency, such as the successful rapid rehousing program, to help people experiencing hunger and homelessness. During this time, the agency grew from five employees to 40 fulltime and temporary employees and has seen its operating budget increase from $300,000 to $3.2 million this year, which includes $1.7 million in short-term, restricted Covid-related grants.

Bragg led the nonprofit’s $4.7 million capital campaign that resulted in a two-building facility that opened in 2019. The facility tripled the size of the previous building, expanding beds from 29 to 90, dining hall capacity from 40 to 120 and, for the first time, having a family wing to accommodate parents and children. This project led to the Community Shelter receiving the 2020 Housing North Carolina Award for supportive housing development.  

Prior to leading the Community Shelter, Bragg served as executive director of the Union County chapter of the American Red Cross, leading it to rank among the nation’s highest 10 percent of chapters’ performance. She was named to the national Red Cross President’s Advisory Council and received the Tiffany Award for Employee Excellence, the highest employee honor.

She has served on various boards of directors, including the NC Coalition to End Homelessness, Union County Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Central Carolina’s Regional Executive Council and Union Symphony. In 2012, she was named the Chamber’s Businesswoman of the year and helped develop its Women in Business program, serving as its first chair.

Bragg states she looks forward to retirement with husband, retired Superior Court Judge Chris Bragg, and spending  more time with their children and grandchildren.

Incoming CEO Melissa McKeown joined the Shelter as part-time bookkeeper in 2010 and worked through several client service positions before being named chief operations officer in 2017. She served as a family services case manager, was promoted to senior case manager and then promoted to director of client services.

As COO, she has overseen the daily operations of the Community Shelter, including the multiple food support components, emergency adult and family housing, rapid rehousing initiatives plus volunteer support.

“The board is grateful for the dynamic leadership of Kathy over the past 10 years and where she has brought the agency. We also know that Melissa’s multi-faceted experience with the Shelter makes her the perfect choice for our new CEO, and she will continue to grow the agency’s success,” said Penny Hefner, chairman of the board.

“Melissa has helped us transition from a long-term transitional shelter into a broad emergency services program that encourages rapid rehousing into independent living. She understands our mission, not only intellectually but also with her heart.”

The Community Shelter is the county’s only full-service emergency shelter, meal and food provider and rehousing program.










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