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Local Executives Sleep Out in Durham to Raise Awareness of Homelessness

CEO Sleep Out-Durham Media Advisory


Date: September 4, 2015

                                                                        Contact: Irene Godínez

                                                                        Telephone: 919-463-5013 • 919-627-7511



Local Executives Sleep Out in Durham to Raise Awareness of Homelessness

Who:     United Way of the Greater Triangle, area CEOs and Executives

What:   CEO Sleep Out Durham: Making the “Invisible” issues Visible event

Where: Lawn in front of DPAC in downtown Durham at Blackwell St. & Vivian St.

When: Thursday, September 10 at 6:30pm until Friday, September 11 at 8:00am

Best video opportunities:  Thursday 10:30 – 11:30 pm — Executives getting settled for the night

Friday 5:30 am – 7 am — Wake-up and reflections on the experience

Why:     By having area executives participate in these events, we build awareness of issues that are too often unseen, such as hunger, homelessness and poverty in our Triangle area. This year, our focus is on addressing the issue of homelessness and impacts of poverty on children. On any given night, there are 2,000 homeless Triangle community members. Programming will also address why we’ve moved towards a collaborative approach in addressing some of these complex challenges in our area.


About CEO SleepOut: Making the “Invisible” Issues Visible

This is the 4thannual CEO SleepOut. We will host two CEO SleepOut events in 2015, the next one is in Wake County on September 24-25.

With only cardboard for a mattress, a hearty spirit, and a true passion for the cities and towns they call home, community leaders will gather to make issues like hunger, homelessness and poverty in the Triangle more visible for the nearly 200,000 people in our community living in poverty, 60,000 of which are children.

Programming for the evening will focus on bringing the spirit of collaboration to help tackle issues facing our community. Through this event, United Way and its partners will provide a unique perspective on poverty in our area by hosting round table discussions and simulations demonstrating the complexities of the housing system. Participants will leave with a greater understanding of the challenges faced by many of our community members and will commit to engage in addressing these challenges.


United Way of the Greater Triangle Takes a Bold Step in Funding Collaborations

Contact: Irene Godínez
919-463-5013 • 919-627-7511

United Way of the Greater Triangle Takes a Bold Step in Funding Collaborations

Different Way of Working among Nonprofits and Community Partners toward Long-Term Solutions

Morrisville, NC – Announced today, United Way of the Greater Triangle (UWGT), one of the major philanthropic organizations in the community, has invested the majority of its funding (88%) in:

  • 24 collaborative partnerships with a two-generational approach—working with children and their families together—to significantly improve current circumstances and future opportunities for low-income households and;
  • Partnerships working across the region on reducing childhood hunger and increasing access to health care.

Serving Durham, Johnston, Orange, and Wake counties, United Way in this market is one of the first nationally to make a dramatic shift in how its funds are invested in only a year’s time.

Effective September 1st, the overall UWGT community investment of $7.3 million in 2015-16 supports:

  • The two-generational collaborative partnerships,
  • Basic needs for vulnerable populations,
  • Work toward a food secure community, with a focus on childhood hunger, and
  • Access to health care through

The figure represents a 12% increase over community investments in 2014-15.

“We learned from other United Ways across the nation working in collective impact, a structured way to accomplish social change.” said Mack Koonce, President and CEO of United Way of the Greater Triangle. “We believed, and many partners affirmed, it was time for our United Way to work in this way.” Koonce continued, “Our new strategic plan sets out our vision for building collaborative partnerships among nonprofits, corporations, donors, governmental and community organizations, as well as other funders. This shift to a more collaborative approach is vital to working toward long-term solutions to the Triangle’s pressing social issues.”

Studies show generational success begins with families in financially stable households; with children prepared for educational achievement; with family health and well-being. The Harlem Children’s Zone is the best-known model for an approach to serving families and children. United Way’s model, Changing Generations: Pathways to Progress for Families and Children includes five strategies:

  • Partnerships for Families of Very Young Children (0-5)
  • Family Crisis Support
  • Neighborhood-based Solutions
  • Family and Child Literacy
  • Youth Success.

[List of collaborative partnerships included with release.]

“The fact that Raleigh is the #1 place for business but 94th in social mobility should be a wake-up call for everyone who cares about our community,” observed Greg Winkler, Regional Business Bank Manager at Wells Fargo & Company and UWGT board member. “For our community to continue to grow and prosper, we must create responses to social issues that are effective, solutions-oriented, and innovative to break the cycle of poverty. The time is now.”

# # #

About United Way of the Greater Triangle (UWGT)

United Way of the Greater Triangle is committed to being a catalyst for positive, lasting community change in the Triangle region—Durham, Johnston, Orange, and Wake counties in North Carolina. More than simply a fundraiser, United Way is a community partner to build resources, focus investments, and foster partnerships to address basic needs and improve early childhood learning, health and well-being, educational equity, household stability, and food security in low-income households. UWGT actively mobilizes the caring power of communities, working toward real solutions to pressing social issues in order to transform lives and inspire generations of achievement.  Learn more about UWGT’s work at or volunteer opportunities at

2400 Perimeter Park Drive, Suite 150 | Morrisville, North Carolina 27560 | 919.460.8687



United Way of the Greater Triangle | Collaborative Partnerships

Changing Generations: Pathways to Progress for Families and Children | 2015 – 2016

Partnerships for Families of Very Young Children

  1. DELTA                                                                                                                   Durham

Integrated network of services to support household stability, well-being, mental health, school readiness, and school success of children and their families.

  1. Orange County Comprehensive Early Childhood Initiative           Orange

Services for families with children ages birth – 5 at risk for toxic stress related to a variety of issues caused by poverty, limited literacy, exposure to violence, etc.

  1. Parents and Children Together (PACT)                                                  Wake

Positive Parenting Program (Triple P) will be embedded into its existing programs of developmental day care programs, child mental health services, and early intervention.


Family Crisis Support

  1. Durham’s Collaborative to End Family Homelessness                    Durham

Creates a seamless system of services for homeless families. Moves families into permanent housing as quickly as possible and provides necessary supportive services to maintain their stable housing.

  1. More than a Roof                                                                                            Wake

Providing holistic, wraparound services for homeless families and children living in hotels.

  1. Family Violence Wake County                                                                  Wake

Serving low income families who have experienced domestic violence, but have multiple additional barriers to overcome to end the cycle of violence in their homes.

  1. Fostering Family Success                                                                             Wake

Focused on young families in which one of the parents has a history in the foster care system and are now parenting a child between the ages of 0-8.

  1. Multidisciplinary Team Supporting Vulnerable Families               Wake

Serving vulnerable families and children who have experienced abuse to prevent re-traumatization during assessment, investigation, intervention, and mental health treatment.

  1. The Family Table                                                                                             Wake

Holistic, integrated services to improve the economic stability and well-being of at least 50 food insecure families where one or more adults is unemployed or underemployed.

  1. EITC/VITA Sites                                                                                                 Regional

Free tax preparation for low income households. Advice and assistance in applying for the Earned Income Tax Credit.


Neighborhood-based Solutions

  1. East Durham Children’s Initiative                                                             Durham

Focused on strengthening and expanding existing pipeline of services in the neighborhood, particularly in the areas of early childhood, out-of-school learning, and economic stability.

  1. Family Plus Initiative                                                                                     Johnston

Supports vulnerable children and families to ensure children enter kindergarten ready for success and retain educational and social supports throughout their K-12 education.

  1. Orange Family Success Alliance                                                                Orange

Working in two zones to ensure kids have the opportunity for a healthy, safe, and productive life from cradle-to-college or career by identifying needs and building stability for families.

  1. Early Collaborative Work in Southeast Raleigh                                  Wake

Transitional investments that will be a part of a comprehensive Southeast Raleigh action plan.

Family and Child Literacy

  1. Close the Gap                                                                                                   Durham and Orange

Broad-scale distribution of books and parent tool kits to adults and children to prevent summer learning loss among low income households.

  1. Durham Literacy Collaborative                                                                  Durham

A comprehensive approach to improving educational and economic outcomes for families with a focus on providing a healthy, literacy-rich learning environment for their children.

  1. Wake Up and Read                                                                                         Wake

Engages and educates the community about the importance of childhood literacy and increases access to literacy resources and opportunities for all children.


Youth Success     

  1. Hispanic Student Success                                                                            Regional

Establishes trusting relationships with Latino youth and families to improve their educational attainment and leadership development opportunities; connects families with services and support.

  1. Made in Durham                                                                                              Durham

A partnership of education, business, and community leaders with a shared vision: all Durham youth complete a postsecondary credential and begin a career by the age of 25.

  1. Student U                                                                                                           Durham

Provides a pipeline of academic, social, and emotional support for low income middle and high school students and their families.

  1. Wake Child and Family Support Collaboration                                   Wake

Provides structured services that support young people’s educational attainment and overall well-being; tools for positive home environments; gainful employment and job stability for adults.

  1. YOU                                                                                                                       Durham

Supports low income youth and their families with a targeted comprehensive, and intensive wrap-around network of the best services available in our community.

  1. Youth Thrive                                                                                                      Wake

Convenes and trains youth-serving professionals in Wake County; in the process of creating a collective impact data-informed master plan for youth.

  1. Fostering Youth Opportunities                                                                 Regional

A United Way of the Greater Triangle initiative that helps young people aging out of foster care become self-sufficient through an integrated service delivery model of education, job skills training, housing, and health care.








United Way of the Greater Triangle Announces Allison Warren-Barbour as New Senior Vice-President of Resource Development and Engagement 

For Immediate Release

Contact: Irene Godínez,, 919-463-5013


Morrisville, NC – Allison Warren-Barbour has been named Senior Vice-President of Resource Development and Engagement at United Way of the Greater Triangle (UWGT), where she was most recently Vice-President of Workplace Relations and Engagement.

In her new capacity, she will develop innovative strategies for engaging cross-sector partners in United Way’s work. Warren-Barbour will work to increase the visibility of UWGT’s community work and create new ways of engaging existing and new donors. She will act as lead connector and advocate for UWGT in the community and will lead a ten-member team covering four interrelated areas – workplace and individual giving, major and leadership giving, research and data support, and grants/foundations. Through transformative leadership, Warren-Barbour hopes to inspire her team and Triangle community members to increase their impact towards solving some of our area’s most challenging social issues.

“I feel passionately about the work of UWGT and want to help create an environment and platform where community members who share our passion of creating opportunities for vulnerable children and their families around educational equity, family well-being and economic security, can find their place and voice through UWGT,” declared Warren-Barbour. “I want to bring more people into the conversation of transforming our community and making meaningful connections.”

Warren-Barbour has ample leadership experience having also served at United Way of Greater Atlanta. There, she led a team of 11 development officers charged with raising over $36 million of an $80 million campaign. Warren-Barbour also worked in sales management in the private sector prior to making the transition into nonprofit.

“We are thrilled to promote Allison to this critical role at United Way,” said Mack Koonce, CEO and President of United Way of the Greater Triangle. “Her skill set, along with her enthusiasm for our vision of creating a more just environment will enable us to engage more individuals and key partners in transforming our community.”

Warren-Barbour graduated from Miami University in Ohio with a Bachelor of Science in Organizational Behavior. She went on to receive a Master of Divinity from Princeton Theological seminary. She is a graduate of Leadership Triangle and Raleigh Chamber’s Emerging Leaders program.  Warren-Barbour lives in Cary, with her husband, Kevin and two daughters, Anya & Isla.

# # #

About United Way of the Greater Triangle (UWGT)
United Way is committed to supporting immediate basic needs and working toward long-term, sustainable solutions to some of the area’s most pressing issues in four North Carolina counties, Durham, Johnston, Orange, and Wake. A new focus on low income families and children uses a collaborative approach to dramatically change the course of their futures. UWGT actively mobilizes the caring power of communities to build resources, focus investments, and foster partnerships to improve lives and inspire generations of achievement.

Learn more about UWGT’s work at or volunteer opportunities at

2400 Perimeter Park Drive, Suite 150 | Morrisville, North Carolina 27560 | 919.460.8687


Working together to transition from homelessness to housing


BY Candice Delgado, Community Engagement Fellow

Upon accepting this community engagement fellowship opportunity, I was told that every day would be something different and each day I would learn something new. Being that I have been part of United Way’s community for over a month, I now know this to be true. I had the honor of spending Friday with UPS as they donated their time volunteering in Durham with Housing for New Hope. This was an incredible day spent seeing a different side of Durham, hearing firsthand accounts of being homeless in Durham, and seeing the emotions of a person as they were removed from homelessness and placed into their own home.

Housing for New Hope is one of United Way’s agency partners working within a collaborative that works to move families and individuals out of homelessness into permanent housing as quickly as possible. Employees explained the process that homeless individuals or families have to go through to receive help from Housing for New Hope. Being so far removed from understanding all that someone facing homelessness must endure, I learned quite a lot and feel very frustrated for the barriers that stand in the way for these agencies working so hard to help more people get out of homelessness. I also feel disappointed that as much as Durham has grown in the past few years, housing in this area is not accessible to many people. A recent article in The Indy states the reality of trying to work and afford housing in Durham, “Condos and apartments are being built—or in the pipeline—throughout the center of the city, Durham Central Park, West Village and most recently at the old Hendrick dealership off Dillard Street. Yet not a single unit is affordable for the average public school teacher, firefighter, police officer, waiter or parking attendant.” Despite the lack of access to affordable housing and the ability for these homeless adults to find a source of income, Housing for New Hope is moving more and more people into permanent housing.


A group of 15 UPS employees and myself moved an individual out of Urban Ministries and into their new home. Moving heavy furniture inside, stocking the pantry and refrigerator, and turning an empty space into a home were just several ways we helped assist this person with their move. However, for this individual-this is their home, their salvation from the daily struggles they faced on the streets, their chance at starting over. Powerful emotions were felt by all that witnessed this moment, a moment that I will not forget.

Throughout the day, Housing for New Hope employees shared that homelessness is a large problem in our community, and it would be near impossible to tackle it all alone as a single agency, but partnering with other agencies that are seeking the same goal helps them use their resources together and reach more people which in the end gets more families off of the street and into stable housing. The efficiency of working together and working towards long-term solutions is why United Way of the Greater Triangle is investing in collaborative work.

As I went home on Friday evening to my comfortable, safe home, I could not stop thinking about that one individual in their new home – what must they be feeling now that it’s quiet and no one is there. Are they scared? Are they lonely? If they doubt themselves at any moment, who is there to support & encourage them? I felt a bit more at ease when I remembered that for one, they’ll have a collaborative team of organizations that will work together to ensure their path towards success. 

On Friday all I could think about was this person, and I think that’s important for me to hold onto, because I’ll remember that person when I tell this story to others. I’ll remember them when I go out to dinner in Durham only a few blocks from where their new home is located. I’ll remember them when I see the face of another homeless person in Durham.  I will continue to seek out opportunities to be more engaged in the community. Working at United Way of the Greater Triangle has already opened so many more doors out into the community which has opened my eyes to see the community in a different light and engage more meaningfully. Although I’m one person, I know that I can help make a difference, if even in a small way like moving furniture, to ease the hardship on some of my Triangle neighbors.

A Whole and Healthy Community

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BY Alex Hardesty

My entire life I have been surrounded by tight knit communities. As a young child my community was a therapeutic wilderness camp, where both my parents were employed. Living there was so much fun as there was always something to be explored in the woods, ice cream was an abundance, and most of all I learned how fortunate I was to have a loving, supportive family that could provide me with many opportunities. At camp I learned not everyone was given these opportunities and that had affected their lives. Most kids at camp had been in some sort of trouble before being a part of the program. I never thought of these kids as “bad”, they just had not been given the same opportunities I had. Being at camp was one of the best opportunities most of the kids had to better themselves. This is when I first realized I wanted a job that would positively impact others.

We eventually moved off property and my community became the small, rural town of Henderson, NC. Henderson is full of wonderful people, but not a lot of activity. So when I received my acceptance letter to NC State I was ecstatic to be moving to Raleigh and to join a new (bigger) community.

I have loved living in Raleigh the last four years. It has been a welcoming and warm place to live. I can totally see why it has been ranked as the #4 happiest place in the world and why many people move to this area each year. However, the Triangle is not a welcoming place for everyone as issues such as homelessness, hunger, and poverty still exist in our community.

When graduation came in May and it was time to enter the real world I hoped for the perfect introduction into a professional career, the nonprofit world, and a new group of people I could add to my community. At United Way as a Community Engagement Fellow that hope was made into a reality. As a fellow I go out into the community and engage others to be a part of the United Way of The Greater Triangle to improve our community. I believe together we can improve the social issues in the Triangle. I am inspired by the UW as they work with their collaborative partners to improve the lives of families in the Triangle by not just focusing on children or supporting adults, but supporting the whole family unit. This two generational approach helps to improve the lives of families not just through funding but through support and sustainable techniques.

Working with UW reminds me of a quote by Millard Fuller, “For a community to be whole and healthy, it must be based on people’s love and concern for each other.” Here at UW everyone truly does have a love for the Triangle and a concern to make it a better place for all to live. I am excited for the next few months as a Community Engagement Fellow to grow as a professional, while fulfilling my passion to help others.

Gayle Lanier of Duke Energy joins United Way of the Greater Triangle’s Board of Directors

For Immediate Release

Contact: Irene Godínez,, 919-627-7511


Morrisville, NC – United Way of the Greater Triangle (UWGT) announced Gayle Lanier, Senior Vice-President of Customer Services at Duke Energy, has been elected to serve on its Board of Directors.

Lanier has been involved with United Way for several years serving, as a company executive sponsor and an internal champion with Nortel and now at Duke Energy.

In her professional capacity, Lanier is responsible for customer contact operations, revenue billing and receivables, metering services, customer support operations and customer satisfaction. Lanier’s skills and talents make her an asset as we work towards a more engaged community, creating pathways to change generations in the Triangle.

Lanier is a committed education advocate who has established the Dwain K. and Gayle S. Lanier NCSU Scholarship Endowment to benefit engineering students. This generous spirit will go far when coupled with her new role as a UWGT board member. “I want to be part of the change we ignite locally by leveraging our partnerships, significantly reducing hunger, poverty and the educational disparity within our communities,” said Lanier. “We all can make a difference and I want to make that difference close to home.”

In addition to her board involvement with United Way, Lanier’s community involvement includes board service for Discovery Place, a nonprofit education organization; she was also a member and secretary for the North Carolina State University board of trustees. Lanier received the NCSU Distinguished Engineering Alumnus Award in 2008 and was one of the 2009 The Network Journal’s 25 Influential Black Women in Business Award recipients and the 2011 Business Leader Women Extraordinaire recipient.

“We are very pleased to have Gayle join our Board, especially at this time in our organization’s transformation,” remarked Kevin Trapani, Chair of UWGT’s Board of Directors. “Her commitment to this community is inspiring and we look forward to working together to make this a better region for all.”

Lanier holds a Bachelor of Science degree in industrial engineering from North Carolina State University. She and her husband, Dwain, have a daughter and live in Raleigh.

United Way of the Greater Triangle is committed to being a catalyst for positive, lasting community change within the Triangle region—Durham, Johnston, Orange, and Wake counties in North Carolina. Its work with a network of nonprofits, businesses, government and community leaders builds resources, focuses investments, and fosters partnerships to address basic needs and improve early learning, health and well-being, educational equity, household stability, and economic security for low income families and children.

# # #

About United Way of the Greater Triangle (UWGT)
United Way is committed to supporting immediate basic needs and working toward long-term, sustainable solutions to some of the area’s most pressing issues in four North Carolina counties, Durham, Johnston, Orange, and Wake. A new focus on low income families and children uses a collaborative approach to dramatically change the course of their futures. UWGT actively mobilizes the caring power of communities to build resources, focus investments, and foster partnerships to improve lives and inspire generations of achievement.

Learn more about UWGT’s work at or volunteer opportunities at

2400 Perimeter Park Drive, Suite 150 | Morrisville, North Carolina 27560 | 919.460.8687

Lessons learned about community engagement

Karen_96 (00000002)

BY Karen Johnson

My exposure to United Way had been through the lens of my company’s annual campaign and the NFL ads during football season. I had not practiced due diligence on learning about United Way. Each year I gave by checking a box and checking one more thing off of my to-do list.

When I walked through the doors to interview and ultimately work as a Community Engagement Fellow at United Way of the Greater Triangle, I silently scolded myself for aligning UWGT with organizations whose brands outshine their results.  Here in the Triangle among cutting edge technology companies, three prominent universities and a growing base of entrepreneurs, sits one of only four United Way organizations in the country that is changing its business model to adapt to the complex social issues and address these issues at a systems level for immediate impact and lasting change. I had no idea!

I was about to get schooled and that 15-week education challenged my perception of UWGT, the Triangle area, and collaboration.  Here is what I learned and continue to learn:

  1. The United Way of the Greater Triangle doesn’t go it alone – and neither should I. When the leaders at UWGT realized that a new strategic direction was needed to evolve and make a greater impact, they reached out to partner agencies, community leaders and businesses to help develop the strategy.  This was a community effort.

In my role I reach out to businesses to help them develop their annual campaign and year-round engagement with us. The term “help” means that I first listen, ask questions, listen again, research options and then make recommendations based on the company’s goals.  It’s rewarding to help a company reach its philanthropic goals in support of our community.

  1. The Triangle is a great place for me to live. I love ACC basketball, the arts and access to great southern food. Every night I have the security of a place to sleep. I have food to eat when I am hungry. This is my reality, but it is not the reality for so many children and families here in the Triangle. The statistics will wake you up–like how 1 in 5 children in our community don’t have enough to eat on any given day. They may set you on fire like they did me. They could even inspire you to act in ways that surprise you.

Before becoming a Community Engagement Fellow I gave presentations to corporate executives, engineers, designers and managers for years. My comfort level in public speaking was met with a sleepless night and a dread that rivaled nothing else. However, when I began to talk about the issues in the Triangle and more importantly what UWGT is doing about those issues I became energized. Honestly at times I didn’t know myself.  I became comfortable and happy – on stage!

  1. Collaboration is the key to making a difference. Last year we talked about our agencies forming collaboratives and working together to solve an issue with common goals and metrics. Now we have 22 collaboratives that are funded by the Community Impact Fund. It is a new way of working together and everyone is finding their way.

“Oh, you mean I have to do it too?”  It can be hard to work in group on a project or issue when you already have a vision of what the outcome will look like.  Thankfully I work with some really bright, creative and interesting Fellows who make working collaboratively fun and produce outcomes that are so much better than what I could do alone.

This is my second year as a Community Engagement Fellow and I am finding it equally as rewarding and fun as last year.  Our story at the United Way of the Greater Triangle is an easy story to tell and I love telling it because we are innovative, engaged and determined to make an impact in our community.


Collective Impact & Engaging Meaningfully for Long-Term Change

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BY Robin Murchison, Community Engagement Fellow

Before moving to the Triangle, I had the privilege of working for more than ten years in the nonprofit field in Florida. One aspect that I most enjoyed from that work was being deeply connected and involved with my local community. I’m driven by knowing the work that I do is making a positive impact. Being a Community Engagement Fellow was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up as I knew it would fast-track my learning about the needs and challenges in my new hometown, as well as those working to make a difference.

During my time as a CE Fellow, I’m also working full-time for a company called The Redwoods Group, a values-driven insurer of YMCAs and other youth-serving organizations that has service to others as central to its mission and business model. Within my first hour of working at Redwoods I was sitting in a meeting hearing about zone-based solutions and collective impact. I was intrigued, but despite my experience in the nonprofit field, I had very little idea what these terms actually meant as an approach to dealing with complex social problems.

The CE Fellow training was a deep dive into the incredible work being done by United Way of the Greater Triangle. I quickly came to realize that the bold new strategic direction of this United Way – from the framework of a two-generational approach to tackling poverty, to organizing collaboratives, to work toward collective impact – was on the forefront of work being done to address social issues across the country. But beyond simply a different way of funding, United Way is also supporting and mobilizing local agencies in this new way of working collaboratively. For local employers and their employees, I see a great opportunity for people to engage with United Way in very different ways. More than simply sharing their financial capital, this community will also need the intellectual capital to inform and support our work, as we all learn to think and act in new ways, developing a shared and common vocabulary as we go. There are so many ways to engage meaningfully in transforming our community.

My experience so far as a CE Fellow has been much richer and more rewarding that I expected. I hoped to gain an in-depth knowledge of the issues facing the Triangle, which I’m certainly doing. What has surprised me was the equal focus during training and work on my own professional development, skills that I can hopefully bring to my work in supporting this year’s United Way campaign goals, but also into my work at Redwoods.



Having a heart for the Community


BY Candice Delgado, Community Engagement Fellow

I have lived in North Carolina for almost 10 years. I was drawn to this area to settle down for a number of reasons ….the Triangle’s sweet southern hospitality, prestigious universities, vibrant & colorful seasons, and living in a prime location being nestled only a few hours away from the mountains and beaches. While I have enjoyed the perks of living in this area, my life has been devoted to a career as an elementary teacher.

For the past five years I have been honored to teach 4th graders at a public school in the Triangle. Working with 9 & 10 year old children is refreshing, encouraging, and eye opening. As I write today, I am humbled by all the lessons and life experiences I have learned through each child I have taught.

I look back on my years as a teacher with happy memories, and many moments I will never forget. It’s hard to forget when your own student walks through the classroom door looking disheveled and lost as they explain that that they don’t have a home to live in anymore, they don’t have anywhere to stay, and they’re scared. It’s hard to forget the heartbreak of looking into the eyes of a child that has not had a meal in over 24 hours nor do they know when their next meal will be and they tell you they are just hungry.

Homelessness, hunger, and family stability are just a few of the problems that became a regular concern for many of my students. These problems became so frequent that my heart led me to look outside of school walls and seek out places that help in the community to meet these needs. That is when I came across an opportunity for a Community Engagement Fellowship at United Way of the Greater Triangle.

In my first few days at UWGT I learned so much about the exciting new things going on, but truthfully I was overwhelmed with emotions when I learned about the Triangle Paradox. The paradox shows that yes-the triangle is the #1 happiest place to live and one of the top two best places for young professionals, but it also shows the cold facts that each and every day there are at least 100,000 children that are food insecure. I was saddened to learn that on any given night there are over 2,000 homeless people in the triangle. These facts are hard to digest, but even more so they are hard to forget about when you live, see, and work in this community. I was drawn to United Way of the Greater Triangle for their collaborative approach to supporting the community’s needs. They have agencies working collaboratively, to address families-both children and adults together. That means that agencies can come together and work on the family as a whole and put them on a pathway for success.

After thinking about the needs in our community I am reminded of a quote that I often shared with my students, which comes from a TED talk by Pearl Arredondo, called My story, from gangland daughter to star teacher.  Pearl says, “Everyone has a story; everyone has a struggle; and everyone needs help along the way.” This quote stays with me as I begin my first few weeks as a fellow, because my heart continues to lead me to want to know other people’s story. I feel encouraged that I am surrounded by people at this organization that are passionate about their community, they want to impact individuals that need help, and they want to foster a community united for transformative change. I am thankful that my heart has led me to this fellowship opportunity and I’m excited to build relationships out in the community and share the exciting things that UWGT is doing in the Triangle. I am truly looking forward to the next few months of being a Community Engagement Fellow!


Meet Natasha Wayne, Creating Meaningful Engagement Opportunities

Current gig Director of Engagement
Previous gig Community Engagement and Special Events Manager, UWGT
Favorite Quote I don’t take my life seriously, but I do take what I do–in my life–seriously. Audrey Hepburn

United Way of the Greater Triangle: What is your new role and what is the function?
Natasha Wayne: My new role is Director of Engagement.  As part of this role, I will be the staff liaison for Leaders United, United Way of the Greater Triangle’s leadership society.  I will work with members of Leaders United to help deepen their understanding of UWGT’s work and activate these members around our work.  With this, I will work to create a world class engagement experience for our donors through volunteer opportunities, events, and opportunities to provide feedback and ideas on our work. By creating these experiences, I hope to cultivate not only a deeper understanding of our work but also a deeper passion for and motivation to make an impact in the issues facing our community.

What does “engagement” mean to you?
Engagement requires both commitment and interest. Engagement requires that one truly care—being appalled that 100,000 kids in our very prosperous area don’t know where their next meals is coming from—and wanting to make a difference. Engagement then requires action toward change.

Why are you called to do this work?
When I was growing up, my father was a car salesman and didn’t get out of the business until I was 25. In the late 90s and early 2000s, things were going really smoothly for my family.  We took vacations, had nice cars, and lived in a nice, big historic home. Then the economy fell…and so did car sales.  My family experienced hardships that led to significant life-changes. I quickly understood that poverty and financial instability can happen to anyone.  One unforeseen circumstance can change the entire life projection for a family. I am called to the work I do at UWGT to help people in our community.  When we were facing these issues, we didn’t have a community to wrap around us or guide us.  I want to be part of ensuring we have that in the Triangle.

What difference do you hope to make?
I hope to get more people involved in our work.  I know that UWGT can’t solve the issues of our community on our own and, quite frankly, we shouldn’t.  The skills of the 35 people that work in our office, though extensive, aren’t enough to conquer every issue our community.  I hope to get more people involved in our work, to join us with their skills and ideas, so that as a team we can truly tackle some of the biggest challenges in our community.

Why does this role matter in the broader community context?
This role will allow our donors and community members to become more involved in our work.  By becoming more involved, people from across the four counties we serve will gain a firmer understanding of what our United Way is doing to create long-term, sustainable solutions to some of our areas’ biggest problems. Individuals in our community will begin to understand that they can make a difference even in some of our most seemingly insurmountable issues because they are joining with like-minded and like-hearted individuals to play a part in the overall solution.

Volunteer with United Way of the Greater Triangle,