Helping others is just something Susan Escareno was "built" to do.

“That’s just what you do. You give back in any way that you can. If it’s not monetarily, you give your time. That’s what I watched my mom do. It wasn’t something I was forced into doing, it was just built into me,” Escareno, Finney County United Way director, said on Friday. “My mom was a big volunteer person. She lived in Scott City, and until she was 86 years old — not too long before she passed away — she volunteered.”

After nearly five years of overseeing the Finney County United Way, Escareno will be retiring at the end of the year.

“It was just a good time,” she said. “We have nine grandkids, and they’re all involved in activities. … Our oldest grandson started high school this year, and then we’ve got one going into high school next year. It’s going to be a good time for me to slow down and spend more time with them.”

Escareno’s last day as director will be Dec. 31.

“I plan to find something part-time after the first of the year. I’m here until the end of the year. We wanted to have plenty of time to look for someone and to train them,” Escareno said, adding that she doesn’t know exactly what she will do part-time, noting she’s worked with nonprofits for a long time.

Prior to working with United Way, Escareno worked eight and a half years for Spirit of the Plains Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) and before that, she worked 16 years for USD 457.

The most rewarding part for Escareno serving as United Way director is meeting people and seeing the impact the partner agencies have on the community.

“I envy our agencies that we fund. They do so much good work, and I really enjoy watching them and seeing what they do and how they impact our community,” Escareno said. “I think another part is all the people that I’ve met. In fact, I was just visiting with a woman from Tyson, and I was telling her that I enjoy the Tyson (United Way) campaign so much. A lot of the employees have worked out there for a long time. I see them for every campaign, and we always sit and chat. I catch up on their family. So you make longtime friendships. … I’m very fortunate to get to work with all the cultures in our community. I enjoy that tremendously.”

Even though she's stepping down as director, Escareno said she plans to continue helping United Way.

“I intend to volunteer for the United Way. It’s something I believe strongly in, so I’m not just going to walk away from it and not be involved,” she said. “I do look forward to more time with my grandkids. They are growing up quickly. You think they’re babies, and the next thing you know, they’re 15 years old.”

The search for a new director is already underway. Those interested in applying can send their resumes to Finney County United Way, P.O. Box 1268, Garden City, KS 67846, by Oct. 10.

Contact Josh Harbour at