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Meet the New Innovators

IGN-CE presenters at the first pitch on January 16, 2017.

In our prosperous community, many families are at risk. Vulnerable families face a range of challenges: lack of job skills and unemployment for adults create families that struggle with chronic hunger, poor health and the risk of homelessness. This year we have launched Idea Generation/Next: College Edition (IGN-CE), a pitch competition designed to encourage and promote new ideas from college students committed to addressing social issues facing our communities. It’s part of United Way’s social innovation initiative to activate students across disciplines to think about ways to improve the lives of families and children in low-income households in the counties we serve: Wake, Durham, Johnston, and Orange.

On February 24th the young innovators will make their final pitches after having worked with mentors to refine their ideas and business models. As we consider how far they’ve come in such a short period of time, we want to share how their journey began.

At the kickoff event on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, there were familiar things one would expect from an entrepreneurship environment–jargon on venture capital, business models and talk of sustainability–but the unexpected twist was the added dose of inspiration both from the keynote speaker and the innovators themselves.

Reverend Sterling E. Freeman addressed the college-aged innovators and his charge resonated profoundly with the audience who had just finished marching in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.  Combining the conviction of a preacher with the gravitas of an academic, he reminded us that like social entrepreneurs, our responsibility is not to have more materialistic success, but to make a difference in the lives of people in our communities. Correlating social entrepreneurship with African cosmology, the phrase “I am because we are” reflects that idea that a moral market equates to healthy communities. It is essential that innovators “take the idea of entrepreneurship and saturate it with moral compass,” – and that’s exactly what students embodied throughout the program.

Speaking to a sizeable crowd at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts, twenty-two students from North Carolina Central University, North Carolina State University, Saint Augustine’s University, Shaw University, Wake Technical Community College, and William Peace University advocated for a diverse number of ways to address the poverty paradox in the Triangle region.

“We should teach art, mental health, business skills and self-care,” said LaCrisha Holcomb, a student from NCCU who believes providing access to fundamental health and emotional intelligence information can change the trajectory of an individual’s life. Other students pitched ideas that included everything from financial literacy to addressing food insecurity by providing cereal to underserved communities.

The audience was very interactive, responding audibly with passion to ideas that resonated with them.  Through a text-to-vote poll, NCCU student Tyler Walker won the “People’s Choice Award” for his idea to enhance the education-to-occupation pipeline as a means of alleviating poverty – sending the crowd into cheer and applause.

The event left attendees feeling inspired and hopeful that the future of our communities is in good hands with generations already taking the reigns. Come support these young innovators at their final pitch on February 24th.

Equipping the Future, Now

Wake County Public Schools Family Academy Participants with La Familia Technology Awareness Team

On a chilly Thursday evening in January, thirty Wake county children and their parents streamed into AB Combs Elementary School for a life-changing lesson. Wake County school principals and counselors reached out to their school system weeks earlier, seeking affordable laptops for families with limited income. With schools becoming more and more digitized, there is renewed urgency in bridging the technology divide so that children in low-wealth families are not left behind, due to lack of access to the necessary tools to produce their school assignments. This is where United Way of the Greater Triangle’s La Familia Technology Awareness Program comes in.

Started in early 2016, La Familia Technology Awareness Program began as a collaboration between United Way of the Greater Triangle and Univision 40, a local affiliate of the nation’s largest Spanish-language broadcast TV network. The program provides refurbished computers directly to families with school-aged children who do not have a home computer and who can benefit from the use of Univision Clave al Éxito portal. This bilingual portal offers resources to help parents track their children’s academic progress, communicate with their teachers, and better prepare for college.

This collaboration aligns with United Way’s two-generational approach toward community impact work. Families who participate in the program not only receive a computer, but they also receive bilingual instruction, as a family, on the computer that they take home at the end of the training. Volunteers, mostly from the professional chapter of NC Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, train families on basic internet skills, word processing, spreadsheets, and the use of the Clave al Éxito portal from Univision. In recent months, the collaboration has grown to include Wake County Public Schools Systems’ Family Digital Academy and it will soon add Durham Parks and Recreation to its list of collaborating partners. MariaRosa Rangel, Senior Administrator at Wake County Public Schools Systems, remarked that “by providing families with a laptop and online educational resources, more and more children in our school system will be better equipped to meet their academic requirements,” Ms. Rangel went on to say “We are proud to work with community partners like the United Way to broach the technology divide.”

In a span of two hours, a previously disconnected family journeys through an accelerated course that’ll not only equip the children and their parents with a baseline understanding of using their computer, but they’ll also have a reminder that their school administrators and community-at-large care and are invested in their success. These children will no longer have to risk missing the school bus while they complete school assignments in the library computer lab. They can now go home and complete their assignments and when internet access is an issue, they can take their laptops to a public library. The collaborative partners are working with internet providers to offer families who complete the training affordable rates on their internet service.

To date, La Familia Technology Awareness Program has conducted trainings in Wake, Durham, and Orange counties, connecting over 450 families with computers. The first training in Johnston county is planned for this upcoming spring. If you’d like to support this program, please consider donating your computer and drop in to help refurbish computers. No experience is necessary to volunteer. To learn more, click here.

Serve Our Community: Join a Nonprofit Board


March 2 @ 8:00 am – April 20 @ 8:00 am (7 Sessions)

What is SPARC (Strong Partnerships Activating Real Change)? Real solutions sparked by a community united for transformative change requires diverse voices, creative thinkers, and dynamic leaders from across the Triangle area. Social issues are complex problems that call for people to get involved by committing to work together toward solutions.  Our SPARC Program is designed to connect with people who care about learning more about the issues and how they can participate in creating powerful, positive changes in our community.

What is SPARC Nonprofit Board Training? United Way’s Nonprofit Board Training is an 8-week training program being offered each fall and spring. Designed to develop and enhance your leadership skills, SPARC Nonprofit Board Training gives you the tools to serve as effective board members of local nonprofit agencies. Workshops include:

  • What is a Nonprofit Board and How Does It Work?
  • Board and Staff Roles and Responsibilities
  • Fundraising
  • Building a Diverse Nonprofit Board: Do You See What I See?
  • Legal Responsibilities and Ethics
  • Strategic Planning
  • Collective Impact

A selection committee reviews applications and selects no more than 40 individuals per class. The selection criteria are designed to recruit a group of demonstrated leaders who are diverse in their ethnicity, profession and community service experience. Upon acceptance into the program, a $25 non-refundable Board Commitment Fee is due prior to the first training session.

For more information, contact

Application Process and Session Dates
The Spring 2017 application process is now OPEN. Click Here to Apply

The application deadline is March 1. Upon acceptance into the program, a $25 non-refundable Board Commitment Fee is due at the first training session.

The session dates are listed below; All sessions are at United Way of the Greater Triangle from 8:00AM-10:00AM. A light breakfast will be provided.

  • Thursday, March 2
  • Thursday, March 9
  • Thursday, March 16
  • Thursday, March 23
  • Thursday, April 6
  • Thursday, April 13
  • Thursday, April 20

Completed applications can be emailed to

Sponsored by    

Triangle Community Foundation and United Way of the Greater Triangle Spearhead Regional Reading Proficiency Campaign


CONTACT: Lisa Finaldi, NCECF, 919.987.1370
Irene Godinez, United Way of the Greater Triangle, 919.463.5013
Meg Buckingham, Triangle Community Foundation, 919.328.4018

Triangle Community Foundation and United Way of the Greater Triangle Spearhead Regional Reading Proficiency Campaign

The North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation (NCECF) is partnering with the United Way of the Greater Triangle, Triangle Community Foundation and community coalitions in Chatham, Durham, Johnston, Orange and Wake counties to ensure children are on a pathway to gradelevel reading by the end of third grade, giving them the tools to succeed in the 21st century economy.

By 2020, 67% of jobs in North Carolina will need post-secondary education. Proficient reading in the early grades predicts high school and even later success. Simply put, those who can read at grade level or beyond go on to graduate. Those who aren’t proficient in reading by the end of third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. The impact is significant for these students, their families, economic growth in our community and social mobility of low income households.

According to the NC Department of Public Instruction in 2016, average grade-level reading proficiency for economically disadvantaged children in these five counties was 40 percent, and for all students it was 58 percent. That’s over half of students in the region that cannot read on grade-level by the end of third grade.

Through this partnership, Triangle Community Foundation and United Way of the Greater Triangle are leveraging resources to make a regional impact on literacy, with a combined initial investment of more than $700,000. Triangle Community Foundation is providing multi-year grants to four community coalitions – Bull City Reads, WAKE Up and Read, Chatham Reads and a new collaborative forming in Orange County. United Way is supporting the collaborative partnerships in Wake, Durham, Orange, and Johnston counties. Both organizations are funding NCECF to further communities’ success across the region. By working together to affect change in literacy for our students, the organizations are also hoping to grow support among other regionally minded funders.

“The partnership with Triangle Community Foundation and NCECF marks an important milestone for our organizations. Our shared vision for a regional initiative allows us to collaboratively support individual community needs, mobilize additional resources, and share best practices across communities,” said Mack Koonce, President and CEO of United Way of the Greater Triangle.

“By working together in our region to fund critical work that will effectively ensure more children have access to the resources they need so that they can become proficient readers, we can change the landscape of future success,” said Lori O’Keefe, President and CEO of Triangle Community Foundation. “Addressing this critical issue collaboratively not only raises awareness of youth literacy, but allows us to make a greater impact for our kids.”

The national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading is mobilizing coalitions of nonprofits, parents, business leaders, government agencies, congregations, foundations, and others to remove barriers, expand opportunities, collaborate and align efforts to ensure that children can read on grade-level by the end of third grade. The North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation serves as the state lead for the campaign and supports communities’ success to build capacity to achieve measurable outcomes in school readiness, school attendance, summer learning, and grade-level reading.

Grade-level reading is achievable with policies and practices that reflect reading is a cumulative process that develops from birth and is rooted in early brain development. To be successful readers by third grade, children need:
• Health and Development on Track Beginning at Birth
• Supported and Supportive Families and Communities
• High Quality Birth-to-Eight Learning Environments
• Regular Attendance in Early Learning Programs and Schools

About the Partners

North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation is the state lead for the national Campaign for Grade-Level Reading, a collaborative effort to ensure that more children in low-income families succeed in school and graduate prepared for college, a career, and active citizenship. More than 300 communities across the country are partners in the campaign. NCECF promotes understanding, spearheads collaboration and advances policies to ensure that each North Carolina child is on track for lifelong success by the end of third grade. More information at: and

Triangle Community Foundation enhances the lives of all residents of the Triangle now and for future generations. For the past 32 years, the Foundation has been connecting donors with causes they care about, investing in nonprofits and serving as a resource for local issues in the Triangle region of North Carolina. Each year the Foundation grants more than $18 million back into the community, partnering with donors and nonprofits to make a difference, now and for the future. Dedicated to building strong nonprofits, successful community leaders, and a Triangle where everyone can thrive, the Foundation works hard to continue learning and educating in our region, with the continuous support of their generous donors and fundholders. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit

United Way of the Greater Triangle predominantly in collaboration among nonprofits and works as a funder and a partner toward long-term, sustainable solutions to some of the most pressing social issues in four North Carolina counties—Durham, Johnston, Orange, and Wake. A two-generational approach to support vulnerable children and their families puts them at the center of services to dramatically change the course of their futures. United Way actively mobilizes the caring power of communities to build resources, focus investments, encourage community engagement, and foster cross-sector partnerships to improve lives and inspire generations of achievement. To find out more, visit

United Way Hosts Thousands of Volunteers and Pitch Competition Kickoff for Twelfth Annual MLK Day of Service

Irene Godínez
Office: (919) 463-5013 | Cell: (919) 627-7511


United Way Hosts Thousands of Volunteers and Pitch Competition Kickoff for Twelfth Annual MLK Day of Service

2,000 volunteers mobilized at over twenty events across four counties. MLK Day of Service culminates with the kick-off of Idea Generation Next: College Edition, investing in underrepresented social innovators.

MORRISVILLE (January 16, 2017)—For the twelfth year in a row, United Way of the Greater Triangle (UWGT) made a holiday named after its namesake a day ON, as they hosted the Triangle-wide Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service today.  Not only did volunteers have a chance to participate in traditional volunteer projects such as creating soup mixes and assisting in children’s literacy programs, but volunteers also participated in mentoring and coaching roles in the Idea Generation Next: College Edition (IGN-CE) pitch competition, where current and recent college students have a chance to win funding for their innovative solutions to local social challenges, such as childhood hunger.  An estimated 2,300 volunteers supported 25 community service events in Durham, Johnston, Orange, and Wake counties.

“MLK Day of Service is an opportunity to be intentional about our role in making our community better,” remarked Natasha Wayne, Director of Community Engagement at United Way of the Greater Triangle. “This year there were many ways to make an impact in our community; everything from wrapping diapers that’ll go to families in need, to coaching college students on how to pitch and refine their solutions to social issues.”

Our MLK Day of Service partners this year included: Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina, Principal, Rotary, North Carolina Central University, St. Mary’s School, Durham Technical Community College, Duke University, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Johnston County, and the Family Success Alliance.  The Triangle MLK Committee joined us in partnership for our Idea Generation Next: College Edition pitch competition.

Highlights include our continued partnership with North Carolina Central University, the site of the largest gathering of volunteers, with approximately 800 participants, who created soup mixes and pantry items, made warm blankets, packaged diapers, and made encouragement cards for young readers and their families in the Triangle. The MLK Day of Service at NCCU was dedicated to Chancellor Dr. Debra Saunders-White.

Other highlights include the partnership with Duke University, The RTP Rotary Club and 14 other Rotary Clubs in the area, and Durham Technical Community College. Volunteers at this site packed over 100,000 meals to be distributed to families in our area through the Interfaith Food Shuttle.

In Johnston and Orange counties, United Way hosted free Community Reads events to cultivate a passion for reading in young children.  Families were invited to bring their children aged infant to nine from 9:00 am to noon to participate in group readings and skill enhancing activities.

Finally, at the Idea Generation Next: College Edition, twenty-two college students and recent graduates pitched their solutions to addressing social issues facing our communities for a chance at winning funding from a prize pool of $30,000. United Way, in partnership with Duke Energy will present the “People’s Choice Award” of $250 to one of the ideas presented today. The final pitch day, where the grand prize will be awarded, will be on February 24th. IGN-CE is one of the ways that United Way is investing in creating a pipeline of innovators with special emphasis on women and people of color, groups that are currently underrepresented in the entrepreneurial sector.

“This year our focus for MLK Day of Service is working more thoughtfully on creating the ‘Beloved Community’ that Dr. King spoke of often,” said Mack Koonce, CEO & President of United Way of the Greater Triangle. “We are living through some tough times, and challenges for under-resourced families are compounded. This is why we wanted to bookend our MLK Day of Service by making a significant investment in innovative solutions, brought to us by young social entrepreneurs in our Triangle community through IGN-CE.”

Impact Totals:

  • 22 Ideas pitched to solve community challenges
  • 120 Students receive new books and tutoring
  • 870 Blankets created
  • 2,300 Volunteers across 4 counties
  • 2,500 Literacy toolkits packaged
  • 100,000 Diapers packaged
  • 147,800 Meal kits packaged



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



MEDIA ADVISORY: United Way of the Greater Triangle’s 12th Annual MLK Day of Service

Irene Godínez
Office: (919) 463-5013 | Cell: (919) 627-7511


United Way of the Greater Triangle’s 12th Annual MLK Day of Service


Who:   United Way of the Greater Triangle (UWGT) is mobilizing 2,200 volunteers across four counties. This will be the largest mobilization of volunteers in the Triangle on MLK Day, 2017.

What: 12th Anniversary Triangle-wide Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service.  Over 25 volunteer community service projects will take place in Johnston, Orange, Wake, and Durham counties. United Way Signature Projects will take place in each of the counties UWGT serves. Our MLK Day of Service at NCCU will be dedicated to our late board member and NC Central University Chancellor, Dr. Debra Saunders-White, who embodied the legacy and teachings of Dr. King in many ways, not the least of which was being a champion of collaboration by hosting our largest MLK Day of Service celebration.

When: Monday, January 16, 2017


Durham County-Rotary Signature Project *In Partnership with RTP Rotary Club & other Rotary Clubs in the area
Durham Technical Community College
1637 Lawson Street
Durham, NC 27703
9:00 am to 1:00 pm
475 Registered Volunteers
Volunteer Projects Description:

  • Creating soup mixes
  • Making rice bags
  • Making bean bags

Durham County Signature Project
North Carolina Central University
The LeRoy T. Walker Physical Education and Recreation Complex
9:00 am to 12:00 pm
800 Registered Volunteers
Volunteer Projects Description:

  • Creating soup mixes
  • Making baby blankets
  • Making rice bags
  • Making bean bags
  • Diaper wrapping
  • Making bookmarks
  • Making encouragement card

Wake County Signature Project
Saint Mary’s School
900 Hillsborough Street
Raleigh, NC 27603
9:00 am to 12:00 pm
375 Registered Volunteers
Volunteer Projects Description:

  • Creating soup mixes
  • Making baby blankets
  • Making rice bags
  • Making bean bags
  • Making bookmarks
  • Making encouragement card

Johnston County Signature Project
Boys & Girls Clubs of Johnston County
311 W. Richardson St.
Selma, NC 27576
Temporary Trailers
9:00 am to 12:00 pm
40 Registered Volunteers
Volunteer Projects Description:

  • Group reading with authors
  • Individual readings with volunteers
  • Craft projects with Scrap Exchange
  • Book Distribution

Orange County Signature Project
Hillsborough Community Center
302 West Tryon St.
Hillsborough, NC 27278
11:00 am to 2:00 pm
40 Registered Volunteers
Volunteer Projects Description:

  • Group reading with authors
  • Individual readings with volunteers
  • Craft projects with Scrap Exchange
  • Book Distribution

Social Media
United Way staff and volunteers will be using the social media hashtags #Uniting4Good #MLKDayTriangle to post updates to TwitterFacebook, and Instagram from events all across the area including the Signature Projects. The official UWGT social media handle is @UWTriangle.
















Principal check presentation

Morrisville, NC—United Way of the Greater Triangle (UWGT) is pleased to announce an enhanced partnership with Principal® that will put 40,000 books and 10,500 meals into the Triangle community and mobilize hundreds of volunteers. This partnership is designed to help address two urgent needs for vulnerable children and their families: access to food when school is out and access to books to create home libraries in order to combat summer slide, achievement gap in school.

Principal has been conducting annual charitable giving campaigns for United Ways across the country since the 1920s; this additional $25,000 grant goes above and beyond those annual contributions to support two large scale volunteer and community impact efforts the Spring of 2017.

Gary Dorton, Vice President, Employer Solutions and Services at Principal said, “We are thrilled to continue our strong partnership with United Way of the Greater Triangle. Through this grant we pledge not only financial resources but also our talented employees who are dedicated and passionate about helping families and children in our community.  Our neighbors depend on all of us to make a difference so we hope others will join in.”

In partnership with First Book and collaborative agency partners focused on literacy, United Way will bring the 40K Book Truck to the Triangle during National Volunteer Week, April 23-29, 2017, as part of their B.O.O.K.S. (Building on Our Kids Success) initiative. The free books will be distributed across the four counties served by UWGT — Durham, Johnston, Orange, and Wake. Over 400 volunteers will help to break down 25 pallets of books and help get them directly to kindergarten through fifth grade students in schools and afterschool programs over four days.

On June 21, 2017, on United Way’s Day of Action, more than 100 volunteers will pack bags with seven meals, enough food for meals for an entire weekend. Volunteers will have a significant impact by providing 10,500 weekend meals to students qualifying for free and reduced lunch programs while they are away from weekday summer programs.

“It is gratifying to see the evolution of traditional partnerships that deepen financial investments and volunteerism to have an immediate impact on our community. We are grateful to Principal Financial for their increased commitment to helping children and their families succeed,” said Mack Koonce, President & CEO, United Way of the Greater Triangle.


About Principal®

Principal helps people and companies around the world build, protect and advance their financial well-being through retirement, insurance and asset management solutions that fit their lives. Our employees are passionate about helping clients of all income and portfolio sizes achieve their goals – offering innovative ideas, investment expertise and real-life solutions to make financial progress possible. To find out more, visit us at

Principal, Principal and symbol design and Principal Financial Group are trademarks and service marks of Principal Financial Services, Inc., a member of the Principal Financial Group.

About United Way of the Greater Triangle

United Way actively mobilizes the caring power of communities to build resources, focus investments, and foster partnerships to improve lives and inspire generations of achievement in four North Carolina counties, Durham, Johnston, Orange, and Wake. A new focus on families and children in low income households uses a collaborative approach to dramatically change the course of their futures.

Learn more at

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


We Are All Philanthropists

Today is National Philanthropy Day, a celebration of giving, volunteering, and charitable engagement. Philanthropy is not a word reserved for those with thousands to give; rather, it is the ability of each of us to acknowledge a shared philanthropy – an altruistic concern for human welfare and advancement – that creates change for those in need. In doing so, we all benefit.

Most of us enjoy the benefits of a growing and prosperous Triangle, so it’s hard to believe that around 1 in 8 of our neighbors lives in poverty. Even as more people move into the area seeking economic opportunity, our metro area ranks near the bottom (#88) among America’s largest 100 counties for the ability of poor people to become economically secure, according to the National Equality of Opportunity Project. That means it’s highly likely that children born into low income families in our community will remain there.

Yet the long-term success of our neighbors is fundamental to the long-term success of our community – and education sits at the core of that success. In the Triangle, 73% of kids from low income families are not proficient readers by the end of 3rd grade. Starting this far behind means these kids have a 78% chance of staying behind far into adulthood.

We are a generous and caring community; that’s one of the qualities that makes the Triangle such a great place to live. Surely, it’s not in our nature to stand by and let the contributions of any member of our community be limited because of their socioeconomic status. It is in all our best interests to ensure that children born into poverty succeed in early education, and that their families are economically secure. A truly prosperous community is one in which all of its members have the opportunity to develop their potential and contribute their talents for the common good.

Increasing social mobility – enabling low income families to become economically secure – will take all of us as a community becoming aware of the issue and finding ways to work together to change that trajectory.

At United Way of the Greater Triangle, our goal is to get more children on the path to success using a two-generation, collaborative approach, and to improve the financial stability of more families with a hand up, not a handout. We enable social mobility through collaborative partnerships made up of non-profit agencies and other partners (like school systems or government agencies). These partnerships put a family at the center of their focus to address the needs of both adults and children – because a child can’t learn if he’s hungry or has no home to go to, and a parent can’t provide food and housing without a job and transportation. Even the lack of diapers can keep a family in poverty, because no diapers means no child care. This two generational approach – serving the needs of kids and their families – is a proven way to break the hold of poverty on successive generations.

Collaborative partnerships come together around the family, and importantly, focused on long-term outcomes of family success. Achieving success takes a lot of time and effort, and team members have to learn new skills to work effectively together. But each family that becomes sustainably, economically secure is a family that contributes to the improved health of our entire community.

Philanthropy is not about handouts; it’s about bringing resources to bear to address social issues facing our communities. It is about all of us. A collaborative, two-generational approach to family success harnesses the collective power of our community’s human, intellectual and financial capital – nonprofit agencies, funders, government, academia, business and individuals – working directly with children and their families to address their needs, and help them become economically secure.

On this National Philanthropy Day, let’s commend the progress our community has made in helping those in need even as we recommit ourselves to make the Triangle a better place to live for all. Join in. Contribute. Volunteer. Be a changemaker in our community.

– Mack Koonce, President and CEO, United Way of the Greater Triangle


I can change the Triangle.

“I can change the Triangle.” 

I have heard this statement every day since starting my Fellowship with United Way of the Greater Triangle (UWGT). If you’re told something enough, you may just start to believe it. But while serving as a Fellow over the past 4 months, I have learned that this claim is, in fact, true.

As a recent college graduate, I had high hopes of entering the working world in a position where I could truly impact my community, but was unsure of where to even begin. For me, and my generation—the “millennials” if you will—personal life and work life are not in two different spheres anymore. Rather, it seems that, more than ever, we have a deep desire to merge our passions of creating social change with our career choices.

This presents a challenge and causes much angst when deciding which path to take senior year of college—accept the dream job at the top accounting firm, continue on to graduate school, or work at a nonprofit for a cause you deeply care about. However, I have found that United Way of the Greater Triangle provides the perfect opportunity to fill this gap and to allow individuals to fulfill their aspirations in both their work and personal lives.

Personally, as a Fellow, I have had the chance to satisfy my ambition of creating positive change through my work as I am out in the field everyday talking to our corporate partners about the issues in our community and how they can be a part of the solution. I recognize these corporate partners, too, are in the unique position to be catalysts of transformative change in their communities through their professional work.

I noticed the true power of the partnership between individuals serving in the corporate world and United Way of the Greater Triangle during EY’s Connect Day. Each year, EY, a professional services firm and a partner of UWGT, participates in an all-employee volunteer day where EY employees serve different Triangle nonprofits. I stood alongside accountants, auditors, and consultants and sorted books for Book Harvest, a nonprofit that provides books for Triangle children in need. As we sorted, we discussed some of the largest challenges Triangle families are facing, and brainstormed ways that each person can be a part of the solution.

It was exceptional to see so many EY employees come out to serve their community in a very different way, and with great impact. This all-hands-on-deck volunteer day truly speaks to the opportunities that United Way of the Greater Triangle creates for corporate partners to get out into the community and to make a difference.

Though my time as a Fellow with United Way of the Greater Triangle is coming to an end, I am hopeful that “I can change the Triangle”…that we all can change the Triangle. This is because UWGT creates powerful partnerships and gives individuals the opportunity to be change makers through their workplace and through volunteerism. I encourage everyone to consider how they can be a part of the solution—how this quest for transformative change be a part of your everyday life—and to think of United Way as a partner in that quest.

– Jessica Lama, 2016 Community Engagement Fellow


United Way’s SPARC Nonprofit Board Training Hits It Out of the Park!

On Thursday, November 3, I was among a group of people from the Triangle area who met for our last nonprofit board training session. The room was buzzing with talk of the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series the night before. The United Way of the Greater Triangle (UWGT) had created an environment to encourage lively exchanges between all of us in a short period of time. Even though we came from various professions and backgrounds, we were all focused on a single goal: learning about becoming a nonprofit board member.


The SPARC Nonprofit Board Training Program is composed of six two-hour sessions to provide the basics of becoming an effective board member. UWGT ensures that all the bases are covered during this training. The program begins with understanding what a nonprofit does and how it works. It then moves on to clearly explain the roles and responsibilities of board members and staff. Diversity, legal responsibilities, ethics, strategic planning, and fundraising are covered in other sessions.

While at first glance these topics may seem dry, UWGT lined up engaging speakers who were insightful and experts in their field and in the nonprofit community in the Triangle. The two hours flew by as we listened to the speakers explain their material, share their stories, and encourage active participation and questions. From the first speaker to the last panel of speakers, they were passionate about their nonprofit roles and the knowledge they could share to help us be successful as board members.

Besides identifying excellent speakers, UWGT created a bond between the attendees. We were assigned different tables each week and a light breakfast was available during a set time to network. These simple steps, along with UWGT’s “question of the day,” allowed us to feel known and comfortable with one another.

The last session’s “question of the day” was “what was the most valuable take-away from these sessions?” For some people, it was hard to pick just one thing. For others, like me, there were nuggets from the various sessions – questions to ask before becoming a board member, how to evaluate a nonprofit’s programs, legal considerations, how a board member should interact with staff – that really resonated with us. What was apparent, though, was that we all valued the program and now feel equipped to take the next step: find a nonprofit that matches our passions and get involved.

Just like the Cubs, UWGT took a big win with their SPARC Nonprofit Board Training Program and has nurtured and readied us to make a difference in our communities.

– Jody Barish, SPARC Nonprofit Board Training graduate, Fall 2016