United Way’s YPL, LINC asks ‘How are you?’

Affinity group looks to create dialogue around issue of systemic racism in light of recent deaths of Black individuals

George Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man from Minneapolis, died May 25 after being handcuffed and pinned to the ground by a white police officer who held his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.

Floyd’s death was captured on video, shared worldwide, and then set off a global movement of protests that quickly spread across the U.S. — protestors spoke out against yet another senseless and preventable death of a Black individual, and the unjust murders of Black people at the hands of police. These instances are common in Black communities, protestors say, and these deaths a byproduct of systemic racism in America.

The deaths of Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless others related to racial violence remind us that even in the midst of a pandemic, there is another disease we need to fear, fight and prevent.

On May 26, the day after Floyd’s death, protests began in Minneapolis and spread nationwide as tens of thousands of people assembled in the streets to express their outrage and sorrow. Those marches quickly spread to Atlanta.

United Way of Greater Atlanta has always fought to end structural racism and upend the longstanding inequities that undermine the well-being of children, families and communities in our region.

There’s one way we can hope to overcome such division: by coming together and creating a dialogue around these issues.

With so much going on in the world, United Way’s Lead. Impact. Network. Change. (LINC) and Young Professional Leaders (YPL) network decided to reach out to its members and check in—to ask, “How are You?”


Here are some of the responses to the #HowAreYouATL tag on Instagram:

User @idasangel says while the movement has exposed certain things, these issues are nothing new for Black communities in Greater Atlanta and across the United States.

“Atlanta is my birthplace. I was raised here. And will forever serve here,” @idasangel writes.
“This movement has exposed systems, behaviors and beliefs that have sought to tear both this city and this nation apart.

“Lately, I’ve been feeling mentally drained, but this emotion isn’t new to so many of us.”

@johnsonkentara echoed that same feeling, simply stating “I’m exhausted.”

Also, via Instagram, @jenniferjakijohnson says these injustices are sickening.

“I know I am tired and sick from the injustices. It is undeniable [sic] a sad place to be in when you wonder if your Black son, brother, or father will return home safely,” @jenniferjakijohnson says.

@kd.noire thanked YPL and LINC for taking the time to ask a routine but important question.

“Asking ‘how are you’ maybe once seemed so routine and simple, but it is really vital to creating genuine connections,” @kd.noire says. “Thank you for asking and caring!”

We want to know how you’re doing.

How can you participate? We’re encouraging Greater Atlanta to join us in the conversation and share how you are feeling on social media using #howareyouatl and engaging with United Way’s Young Professional Leaders’ posts and stories here.

LINC Member Flashback: Jenny Jang
Director, Strategic Outreach & Engagement for Public Policy
Metro Atlanta Chamber

LINC: Tell me about your experience as a LINC member? What did your involvement look like?
Jenny: I have been with LINC from the beginning. In 2015, we didn’t have a formal board or anything. The same handful of people showed up to volunteer every time we received an e-mail from United Way. Two years later, I became the founding chair for LINC and served on a board with some amazing people that were always willing and ready to serve the community.


LINC: What is one of your favorite memories or moments during your time with LINC?
Jenny: For HoliDAY of Service, I had the chance to celebrate the holiday season by volunteering at Marietta Middle School, decorating cookies, and playing with Hispanic students as their parents learned to speak English in another room. This opportunity was very special to me because I attended the school as a kid, and I knew how special this was for the students and their parents. Growing up, I also was the only one who spoke English in my household; I saw the struggle of its limits my mom and dad’s immigrant tongues.

LINC: How are you continuing to stay involved in the community? How did your involvement in LINC affect your decision to give back?
Jenny: I served as a fiscal agent for Atlanta Partners of Education for the last five years, providing needs for our Atlanta Public School students and educators. I also started working with Thomasville Heights School two years ago to lead fundraising efforts to provide school supplies, coats, uniforms, and Thanksgiving baskets. The knowledge I gained and the relationships I built through LINC are what have allowed me to make a positive difference in our community.

LINC: What would you say to someone who is considering joining LINC?
Jenny: United Way LINC will provide various well-organized opportunities to serve our community. We can all make a difference in changing and improving the lives of others while serving as a role model for others and becoming a strong leader.

LINC: What is your favorite quote or personal mantra?
Jenny: May my heart be kind, my mind fierce, and my spirit brave.

LINC Member Flashback, Ashleigh Poff
Founder + Lead Event Manager, Rich Beyond Wealth


LINC: Tell me about your experience as a LINC member? What did your involvement look like?
Ashleigh: I’ve been a member of LINC since its inauguration. As a part of the nonprofit and conscious business scene, I’ve recommended LINC to my circles and have attended most of their events.


LINC: What is one of your favorite memories or moments during your time with LINC?
Ashleigh: One of my favorite memories is inviting 10 of my friends to attend a LINC event with me and all 10 of them showing up – WOW! We had a great time digging in the dirt, giving back, kicking back, and making the world a better place.


LINC: How are you continuing to stay involved in the community? How did your involvement in LINC affect your decision to give back?
Ashleigh: I dedicate at least 10 hours a month to volunteering, whether virtually or with LINC at events. LINC has helped me further cultivate the importance of supporting my city and community philanthropically when I can.


LINC: What would you say to someone who is considering joining LINC?
Ashleigh: Lead, Impact, Network, Change are seriously the keys to making life more enjoyable! Meeting people who care like you do [through LINC] is so necessary in this big world!


LINC: What is your favorite quote or personal mantra?
Ashleigh: I live the mantra of my business, Rich Beyond Wealth, “Possessions make you rich? I don’t have that type of richness. My richness is life, forever.” – Bob Marley

LINC Member, Anna Saraie
Attorney, Alston & Bird LLP

LINC: What inspired you to become involved with United Way of Greater Atlanta’s LINC group?
Anna: About two years ago, through participating in my firm’s United Way Campaign, I first learned about the many ways that United Way impacts our community. I participated in HoliDay of Service where I met a few members of the LINC Board and instantly knew that I wanted to be a part of this organization.

LINC: What aspect of United Way’s work in the community are you most passionate about supporting?
Anna: I fully support United Way’s current campaign promoting the well-being of children. I was shocked to learn that nearly 1.3 million children in the Greater Atlanta area live in communities with low or very low child well-being. United Way is taking steps to ensure that all children in the area are given the opportunities and the tools to succeed – I am glad that I can play a small role in helping United Way achieve this goal.

LINC: How do you balance your professional life with giving back? What motivates you to stay involved?
Anna: Balancing professional life with giving back to the community is not always easy, but the people in this organization have helped me stay engaged. The people I have met at United Way all come from different backgrounds, but we all have in common the understanding that it is critically important to give back to the community. Waking up at 8am on a Saturday to sort clothing for a foster care facility, wrap Christmas presents, or plant trees in the neighborhood is a little bit easier knowing the impact your contributions will have on someone’s life (and knowing that you’ll be serving alongside good friends!)

LINC: What would you say to someone who is considering joining LINC?
Anna: Come out to one of our networking or volunteering events! For me, participating in the HoliDay of Service event really opened my eyes to the amazing work that United Way does.

LINC: What is your favorite quote or personal mantra?
Anna: Go big or go home!

LINC Member, Brianna Maye
Brand Partnerships and Sports Marketing
Porsche Cars North America


LINC: Why did you decide to get involved with United Way of Greater Atlanta’s LINC group?
Brianna: As I began thinking about the next steps in my career, I knew I wanted to be a leader in both my role and the community. I wanted to find a way to give back in a way that is both fun and impactful. I heard about United Way and the programs they had to offer from my mentor and after looking into LINC and seeing the awesome work they were doing I was sold!


LINC: What aspect of United Way’s work in the community are you most passionate about supporting?
Brianna: I am most passionate about working with students and helping them prepare for college. I’m not so far removed from those days and I want to support others through that process as well. I’m really excited to share the knowledge and experience I have!


LINC: What is your favorite quote?
Brianna: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou


Our annual holiday tradition was a record success! Nearly 300 young professionals and our partners joined us to serve at 12 different volunteer sites, bringing hope and joy of the season to hundreds of children and their families.

We addressed many barriers for children and families through projects like outdoor beautification, bike giveaways, donation sorting and more! We also enjoyed mingling at Eventide Brewing, where many were able to make new friends and memories in the spirit of giving back to our beloved community.

Last year we partnered with several young professional networks to get our members involved in the Child Well-Being movement, many of whom support United Way partner agencies. This year, the Urban League of Greater Atlanta Young Professionals and Salvation Army Echelon Atlanta Chapter answered our call to grow our impact event more by investing $1,250 to help us serve more children and their families at our sites.

Stacey Michelle chose to volunteer with FreeBikes4Kidz (FB4K) this year, a champion of Child Well-Being with the mission to help kids ride into a happier, healthier childhood. As a volunteer for their annual bike giveaway, Stacey assisted the kids with selecting the right sized helmet and bike, based on the child’s size, style and color preference. There were a lot of many wonderful choices of bikes and tricycles that the kids got to choose from. The warehouse was full of excitement and love. The kids were overjoyed and for some, this was their very first bike!

“As always, I enjoy volunteering with United Way. This year’s HoliDAY of Service has become my most favorite!” Stacey shared. “My most memorable part was meeting a family of four: two boys, one teenage daughter and a mom who is expecting her fourth child in early summer 2020. Their mother mentioned to me how she felt so blessed from the resources and services she received through United Way’s 2-1-1. This resource was her lifeline, which assisted the family with moving from out of a shelter into an apartment and also provided her the FB4K’s bike giveaway information!”

Join United Way’s LINC and YPL in making a difference in the lives of children and families throughout the year. Next up is SaturDAY of Service on Saturday, April 4, 2020. Whether you joined us or missed us for this day of service, you will not want to miss our April event. Mark your calendar to join the fun!

Check out the HoliDAY of Service photo album.

Interested in sponsorship? Contact Lauren Rock at ypl@unitedwayatlanta.org.

#WhyWednesday: Maria Torres

Maria Torres, Community Relations Specialist at UPS, has always been driven to make a difference. As a board member with United Way of Greater Atlanta’s LINC, she’s found her people and is fulfilling her purpose!

Maria says, “I always joke that I have a little ‘I want to save the world’ in me.” Today, watch Maria share her why and learn more about how she’s making an impact in our region alongside her fellow LINC members.

Ready to find your people? United Way’s LINC (Lead. Impact. Network. Change.) is a group of young professionals working to elevate their community and their connections—and you can be a part. Learn how you can get involved with LINC!

LINC Member, Maria Torres
Community Relations Specialist
United Parcel Service

Why did you decide to get involved with United Way of Greater Atlanta’s LINC group?
Maria: I decided to get involved with LINC because I met Lauren at a UPS event and she told me so much about it that I had to check it out. The minute she mentioned community impact and being able to meet like-minded individuals, I was hooked. United Way and UPS have had a partnership for decades so I reached out to people who were once a part of LINC and they had nothing but positive things to say about it. I went to one meeting and knew this was something I undoubtedly wanted to be part of.

What aspect of United Way’s work in the community are you most passionate about supporting?
Maria: I am most passionate about supporting their Kid’s Initiative, because kids are my priority when it comes to community impact. The impact that UW has made in just a year has been amazing, and I really want to see it continue, and be a part of it.

What is your favorite quote?
Maria: “Never stop believing in the wild possibility that is you and your impact. Live in purpose. On purpose.”

“It’s an exciting time to live in Greater Atlanta! We are a community that never ceases to go above and beyond to extend support, and we have an exorbitant number of companies promoting their employees to get involved. We want YOU (our members) to show up to make our community a place where everyone can thrive.

It is an exciting time to live in Greater Atlanta, and the United Way is right in the middle of it! Located directly in the heart of Atlanta, United Way’s headquarters is always filled with people committed to serving the needs of our community and works as a conduit for those looking to get involved while having a fun and adventurous time in the process.

As the 2019-2020 Chair of LINC (Lead. Impact. Network. Change.), I can personally attest to the kindness, generosity, and desire to lead that I have witnessed in our members. It has been absolutely marvelous to be immersed in the drive and motivation that LINC members have displayed in their efforts to change the status quo and transform this city into a place where everyone can be proud to live.

There is so much more we can do! And we heard you. You want LINC to be the group that motivates you to volunteer with the causes that are meaningful to you, shares the impact of your generosity, and supports you as you grow as a leader in this city we call home. This year we are giving you asked for: more opportunities to show up!

In this exciting time to live in Greater Atlanta, and the time has never been better to get involved with LINC. I look forward to seeing you all out there.”

– Nick Alvarez

Young adults can sometimes get a bad rap—the word “millennial” can carry a negative connotation as someone who is apathetic.
But, that’s a misnomer. There are many young professionals all across Atlanta with a passion for serving their communities. They just may not have always known how to.

At United Way of Greater Atlanta, adults from age 22-30 can have access to a network of young people like themselves with a shared passion for driving change in the community. By donating $250 or more to United Way annually, these people have access to the Lead.Impact.Network.Change (LINC) affinity group.

“The biggest benefit and why [LINC] came about is that we wanted to give people the opportunity to see our brand, not only in our market, but in places where [members] may travel,” said Lauren Rock, director of Young Professional Engagement. “The real goal of LINC was introducing people to the community needs a lot sooner. It was a new way to give people a fun thing to do. There are a lot of events across our market, and you can go somewhere, serve and see a quick return. “It’s a way of introducing United Way’s role in the community.”

LINC’s primary focus is on addressing basic needs and homelessness in Greater Atlanta’s 13 counties. This was something Rose Reardon hadn’t seen as much of in Syracuse, New York, where she lived prior to moving to Atlanta.

Reardon, who serves as co-chair on the LINC Council, had always enjoyed volunteering and helping others. So, it was something she wanted to get involved in once she moved to the South. On one of those first service projects, she said she was brought into the city “further than she had ever gone” from her home. It gave her a chance to see the greater needs of the area.

“My eyes were opened when I moved here,” Reardon said. “It’s very easy to live in a bubble, especially if you don’t live in the downtown or Midtown area. [The first project] was great. We did outdoor beautification and we did some landscaping.

“It was just like, ‘Wow. There are these things I can do. I enjoy doing them, and I’m helping my community and people in need.’”
Like Reardon, Mitch Hogan was also passionate about volunteering. He graduated from the University of Georgia and moved to Atlanta. He had been involved with United Way while in Athens, and when he moved to the area he wanted to get involved with a local United Way.

“I just started looking up what there was, and I found the affinity group online,” Hogan said. “I started talking about United Way and learned what I would be doing, and it seemed like a great opportunity to meet a lot of people and get involved with volunteer events, and once I heard about all of that, I was sold.”

LINC is oftentimes a young professional in Atlanta’s first introduction to philanthropy, so United Way provides a connection to its mission and helping members understand some of the many benefits of joining LINC.

This is an entry-level step to philanthropy. Council members sit on a board and help direct future plans for the group.
Hogan said he liked how the experience was customizable depending on how involved you can become. He said there are enough events to keep you engaged, but everyone is busy, so you have flexibility in the group.

“The reason why I got involved before in college is because I wanted to be around like-minded people that supported each other, and I’m a firm believer that you’ve got to surround yourself with people that you want to be like,” Hogan said. “I want to be someone that is finding out about the issues, tackling those and figuring out new ways to tackle those and raise awareness.”
Reardon echoed Hogan’s sentiment. She agreed that LINC is the perfect place for young people looking to get involved.

“It’s a great way to meet people your age,” Reardon said. “It’s an opportunity to get to know people with the same vision as you. These are people who care about the community.”

To learn more about LINC, click here.