Trendsetter to Know: Mark Young, CEO of Azura & Mesa United Way

Title: President/CEO of Azura and Mesa United Way

Married/Single: Married

Kids: 3 beautiful, talented daughters, 3 great sons-in-law

City you live in: Scottsdale

A typical day in my life includes… working to advance the work of Mesa United Way and Azura, reading whatever I can get my hands on, a little exercise, too much coffee, and a touch of gardening. 

I was born… I was born in Leavenworth, KS. Outside the walls of the federal facility located there. 

My favorite thing about Arizona… the winter weather and the ability to change climates within a 2 hour drive. 

I’m listening to… Hiromi, Jeff Lorber, and my wife.

My family… is the best thing that ever happened to me. We genuinely enjoy each other’s company and sincerely get along, even during the holidays. 

If I could have dinner with anyone, it would be… with someone who would pay for it: or Travis Kelce and his new girlfriend. 

One thing I cannot live without… outside of family and work, probably books. Or jazz records. Or Hulu.

When I was younger, I wanted to be… an actor, a musician, a writer, a spy, and a singing actor who wrote his own scripts, traveled overseas, and used the arts as a cover to be a spy.

I’m inspired by… compassionate, idea-driven people who are determined to make a difference on this planet who aren’t afraid to try new things and explore new ideas to eradicate the ills of the world brought on by poverty. 

The one person who motivates me is… Martin Luther King, Jr. who faced adversity and violence without resorting to those things himself. A true change agent.

If I could change anything in the world, it would be… poverty wouldn’t exist. Anywhere. Kids would have food and clothing, housing would be affordable to all, incomes would be fair, and people would be given equal opportunities. 

The perfect day would be… work day – finding a huge donor who loved what we do and wanted to be part of the solution to the adverse effects of poverty. Weekend- either time on a lake, a good concert, or a great read. 

My first job was… delivering the Leavenworth Times when I was nine. 

My favorite escape… a kayak trip to the lake or an engrossing novel

My life… is an adventure. I allow the current to take me where I need to be while exploring better ways to navigate.

I’m currently working on… avoiding conversations about retirement, a poverty alleviation initiative for single moms and reestablishing relationships post-Covid

Always… live with compassion for those who have less. And eat breakfast

Never… chew with your mouth open

Favorite Quote… Compassion is the basis of morality. Arthur Schopenhauer

Biggest Dream… to retire with Azura and Mesa United Way being vibrant difference makers

My Pet Peeve(s)… phonies. And walks on the beach.

Bio-on yourself/company: In 1921, a group of community leaders established the Mesa Welfare League to serve Mesa residents in need better. From their headquarters in downtown Mesa, a small team formalized the process of meeting with individuals to distribute funds and donated items. The League’s early work included food collections for out-of-work farmers, holiday drives for low-income households, and assisting with Great Depression relief efforts.

Over the next several decades the model of providing direct and indirect social services based on a community’s needs spread across the globe. Local groups organized under larger governing bodies, and the Mesa Welfare League eventually became the Mesa Community Chest in the 1940s. In 1964, Mesa United Way adopted its current name.

Today, we are proud to continue the legacy of people who worked to help people and communities recover in times of crisis. Mesa United Way now supports a host of service programs dedicated to fighting for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in our community. 

In 2023, Mesa United Way created a new nonprofit, AZURA, dedicated to working throughout the valley in areas of aged-out foster youth, foster and kinship families, childhood literacy, financial stability, and combatting poverty. 

Mark Young was born in Leavenworth, KS, outside the walls of a secure federal facility. He has had various jobs, including soda jerk, hay-baler, musician, professor, pastor, floral designer, magazine editor, and nonprofit CEO.  Mark graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in English, Central Baptist Theological Seminary with a Master of Ministry, and Pacific University with an MFA in Creative Writing. Mark has been married for 41 years and has three beautiful daughters and a delightful granddaughter. For 28 years, Mark served as an American Baptist pastor. Since 2016, he has worked as the President/CEO of Mesa United Way and is now also the CEO of AZURA. He has a lifelong concern for those in need: people suffering from the consequences of poverty, underserved children and youth, and young people struggling with education. He dabbles in poetry, moonlights as an adjunct professor, pretends to be a jazz musician, and is a rabid Diamondbacks and Chiefs fan.

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