“I’m really a boring person actually in my home life,” says Michael Cole.
That is his claim, but his professional life is full of activity. Cole has spent the last eight years meeting and impacting a diverse group of people working with the United Way of Bradley County.
Cole came to the United Way of Bradley County in February 2002. As vice president for planning and community services, Cole oversees the funded agencies budgets and the process that reviews them each year. He also serves on various boards in the United Way.
“My whole mission in life has always been to help people and make a difference in the lives of others,” Cole said.
Cole enjoys being actively involved in the community by helping people from “every aspect and every walk of life.”
Cole said his favorite thing about working for the United Way has been working with people in the community and getting to meet so many wonderful people. One of the difficult things about it is seeing agencies have to limit services due to lack of funds. Cole said he has learned a lot from the diverse group of people he has served. He said the most important thing he has learned is that even with all the negative changes in the world there are still people who care about others.
“It has been an amazing thing for me. Bradley County has been the most giving community,” Cole said.
Seeing growth in new programs has also made Cole’s job enjoyable.
However, Cole will soon be serving a new community.
On Aug. 10, Cole will work his last day at the United Way of Bradley County, but his work with United Way will continue. He has accepted a position as executive director and chief executive officer of the Bartlesville United Way, in Oklahoma. Although he will be moving to another state, Cole said the community and people of Bartlesville are much like Cleveland. He hopes that he can take Bartlesville’s services “to the next level” and get more people involved with volunteering. Cole had known for awhile that his next career move would have to be strategic and might take him out of Cleveland. Cole said the next step up from his position is to be president, CEO or executive director, but in today’s economy “those opportunities don’t come very often.”
But when the opportunity did come, he was ready to take advantage of it.
“You just never know where God is going to take you. You just never know where the journey is going to lead,” Cole said.
Cole said if people are open-minded to change, life can take them many places.
Cole said when he came to Cleveland with his wife in 1997 to finish his bachelor’s degree in business administration from Lee University he had no idea how long he would be here.
After college, Cole worked as a sales coordinator.
“It was a great experience but I knew that wasn’t where I was supposed to be,” Cole said.
In 1998, he went to work for the Church of God World Missions as its supervisor of bookkeeping. He then worked for Advancing the Mission of the Gospel International.
In 2008, Cole earned his master’s in public administration. Cole said it has always been his goal to complete his doctorate degree, which he hopes to do within the next 10 years.
When he’s not at work, Cole enjoys staying at home and spending time with his family. He said if he’s home on a weekend his car usually doesn’t move.
His office is proof that he is a NASCAR fan. He grew up watching auto racing with his dad and has continued the tradition with his son.
When he was younger Cole wanted to race in Motocross, but his parents said no.
Although he no longer dreams of racing, Cole does try to attend one NASCAR race a year with his son.
He also loves yard work, house projects such as painting, and TV, especially older shows like “The Andy Griffith Show.”