Nathan Phillips spent most of his childhood moving from one town to the next. His family could not access many resources and relied on government and nonprofit programs to make ends meet.
A few decades later, Phillips will give back to the community as the new chief executive officer for the Northshore Senior Center. Phillips said he will take over for former CEO Brooke Knight, who is leaving for a career in real estate.
“All the safety net programs and systems that are supposed to work, they worked for me,” Phillips said.
The Northshore Senior Center— both a place for seniors and people with disabilities— operates a health center along with food and wellness services, which are available to communities in North King County and South Snohomish County. According to news release, the nonprofit started in 1972 with a mission of serving adults ages 50 or older.
Phillips said COVID-19 hindered program operations to about 40% of services offered before the pandemic.
“The senior center really had to pivot during COVID-19 and started addressing needs in the community that the virus made more apparent,” he said.
Phillips said he hopes to continue certain programs that were established during the pandemic, like mental health services to combat isolation.
During her time as CEO, Knight headed up the levy campaign that funded improvements to the nonprofit’s Bothell campuses, according to the release. She also helped expand the senior center’s social services.
“Both staff and members have recognized Brooke’s tremendous leadership in navigating the Northshore Senior Center through the pandemic crisis,” Board President Suzanne Greathouse said. “The board is grateful for her many contributions.”
The board chose Phillips to join the team because of his experience in fundraising, diversity and inclusion, stated the release.
After high school, Phillips went on to attend the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, he then earned a degree from the University of Washington’s public administration in law program, he said.
“Since then, I’ve focused my career on trying to make sure safety net programs work for all people who need them the most,” Phillips said.
As an English major, he became interested in storytelling and listening to people’s life stories, he added.
“It seems like it might be a stretch to go from an English major into social work,” Phillips said. “But I have built my career on public policy that amplifies people's stories.”
Phillips said he applied his educational background for the last six years while serving at the YMCA of Greater Seattle, which provides services for residents of South King County. He oversaw operations and led support for a new YMCA campus in Kent that opened in 2019, Phillips noted.
“One of the things I'm most proud of is the Kent YMCA,” he said. “I've spent a lot of time working with the community to help them decide what kind of YMCA they wanted… When we finally cut the ribbon and opened the doors, I looked around to see Kent’s different communities coming to see what they helped build.”
The Northshore Senior Center interested Phillips when he heard stories from members about finding connections and learning independent living skills, he said.
“I think one of the reasons the Northshore Senior Center has been so strong and so innovative is because the communities really get behind it and have supported it over the past five decades,” Phillips said. “I'm really excited to be a part of the center.”