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Conversations Among Changemakers

Join Arise Project as Jay Wagner shares his personal story of homelessness and how it influenced him to help end homelessness for all.

Greater Twin Cities United Way program officer, Jay Wagner, embodies the importance of lived experience in effective philanthropy. Join us for an informal conversation facilitated by Mala Thao and to hear how Jay’s own experience with homelessness, and his past work as a nonprofit partner of United Way, inform his work toward our shared vision that homelessness is rare, brief, and nonrecurring in our community.

Stable housing is the foundation for success in every other aspect of life, which is why Greater Twin Cities United Way and Arise Project invest so deeply in solutions that prevent and end homelessness. You’ll learn about our range of approaches that center communities most impacted by housing instability, including LGBTQ+ youth, and leave more connected to your own personal vision for a region where all have the opportunity to thrive.


When: Tuesday, May 9 from 5 – 6:30 P.M.

Where: Wise Acre Eatery | 5401 Nicollet Ave. S Minneapolis, MN 55419. Ample free parking is available in the adjacent lot and on the street.

RSVP: Register here by Monday, May 8.

Cost: Tickets are $20 and include tasty appetizers. Beverages will be available for purchase.


Jay Wagner

Jay is a Program Officer on the holistic grantmaking team, where he focuses on driving innovative and equitable strategies for responding to homelessness and housing instability in our community. In this role, Jay partners with organizations across the metro that are leading vital work toward the vision of homelessness being rare, brief, and non-recurring.

Prior to joining the team at United Way, Jay worked in the direct service sector of the homeless response and prevention field for 20 years. Jay’s experience in the field started as a recipient of services and led to a variety of roles, including provision of shelter, street outreach, and case management services. Over the course of the last 10 years, Jay has had the privilege of providing leadership to programs and community coalitions representing diverse approaches to ending homelessness, emphasizing the centering of lived experience and culturally responsive evidence-based practices. He received a Bachelor in Sociology from Grand Valley State University.

Mala Thao

As the Vice President of Individual Philanthropy, Mala helps donors become smarter philanthropists and strengthens Greater Twin Cities United Way’s mission to advocate for social good and develop solutions to address the challenges communities face.

Mala started her career in philanthropy more than 20 years ago with the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota and gained additional fundraising experience in various nonprofits and foundations, such as Washburn Center for Children, Asian American/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy, Indian Land Tenure Foundation and American Red Cross. Prior to joining Greater Twin Cities United Way, Mala was a philanthropic advisor at Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation for 10 years.

Mala grew up on St. Paul’s Eastside and now calls the city’s Frogtown neighborhood home. She is a fierce advocate for social justice and has volunteered on boards and committees, such as Headwaters Foundation for Justice and Facilitating Race & Equity Conference (FREC). Mala has been appointed by the Mayor of St. Paul to serve as Commissioner of the Human Rights & Equal Economic Opportunity (HREEO) and has also been appointed by the Metropolitan Council to serve on the Livable Communities Advisory Committee (LCAC).

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