What was your first introduction to United Way? What inspired you to become involved with LINC?

I first became involved with LINC when I participated in a HoliDAY of Service volunteer event. After spending the day volunteering, we were all invited to a LINC networking event at a local brewery. It was an absolute blast. At that time, I had recently moved to Atlanta and was looking for ways to get involved in the community and meet like-minded professionals. LINC seemed like a great way to tackle both of those goals (spoiler: it was!).

What aspect of United Way’s work in the community are you most passionate about supporting?

It is hard to pick just one aspect, since United Way does a great job of supporting so many different facets of our community. That being said, the work United Way has done around its Strong Learners investment priority is particularly notable. I support United Way’s mission of emphasizing how early, preemptive action in children’s education can positively impact our community. I can’t wait to see the downstream effects of this investment priority.

How do you incorporate giving back into your free time? How are you continuing to stay involved in the community during a pandemic?

I find the easiest way to incorporate giving back in my free time is to find organizations that I’m passionate about. When you’re passionate about a cause, I find it is easier to make the needed time. Additionally, finding a group of people who are just as passionate as you are (hint: LINC!) makes giving back all the more fun and enjoyable.

It has been more difficult to stay involved with the community during the pandemic, but I have been pleasantly surprised at the creative virtual volunteer opportunities available. For example, I’ve been able to stay involved with the community by joining a virtual “hackathon” where we compiled educational resources for those struggling during the pandemic and have also served as a virtual mentor for high school students going through the college application process.

What would you say to someone who is considering joining LINC?

Sign up for a virtual networking or volunteering opportunity! These events are a great chance to meet our wonderful members and learn about United Way’s work. Plus, if you join now, you’ll be in a great position to get rolling once we get back to hosting events in-person. I personally can’t wait for the next Volunteer Day of Service!

Who do you consider an inspiration and why?

There are so many folks who have inspired me, it is hard to pick just one! At the moment, I’ve found inspiration from Nassim Nicholas Taleb. His works have helped me think differently about our world and provided a valuable perspective. Check out The Black Swan if you have a chance!

What was your first introduction to United Way? What inspired you to become involved with LINC?

As a recent graduate I was looking for a young professional group to join where I could network and engage in community initiatives. After doing some research I stumbled upon United Way and connected with Lauren Rock. Sitting down with her over lunch really gave me the opportunity to express to her what I was looking for in a young professionals group and she was able to outline all the amazing things the United Way does for me. It was the perfect fit!

What aspect of United Way’s work in the community are you most passionate about supporting?

I am most passionate about improving educational outcomes for youth. I believe having a solid education can provide children with a path forward and an opportunity to follow their dreams. During the pandemic I think it has been challenging to offer the same type of educational outreach to youth but I am hoping once the pandemic is over to have more chances to tutor kids.

What was the turning point that made you realize the importance of giving back?

Ever since I was younger I’ve wanted to find ways to give back I think because I had a longing to make the world a better place. So whether that meant walking dogs at the pet shelter or donating clothes to others in need, I always found ways to be a part of my community.

How do you incorporate giving back into your free time? How are you continuing to stay involved in the community during a pandemic?

During the pandemic I have tried to lean on safer ways of giving back that I was already incorporating into my life. Instead of my normal in person volunteering I have given back monetarily to help my favorite non-profits stay afloat. Much of the work they do has increased, yet the funds have continuously been diminishing so I do my best to try and help financially.

What would you say to someone who is considering joining LINC?

If you are looking for a community of like-minded young professionals who care about their communities then join LINC!

Who do you consider an inspiration and why?

Building community and seeing positive change is an inspiration to me. It is one thing to want to solve a problem but it’s always beautiful when you have the opportunity to see things come to fruition.

Laura Salvatore Adams is passionate about public health work. But, more recently, she’s seen how the importance a community places on the health of its citizens can impact a family’s ability to grow its wealth.

Adams is one of many United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Young Professional Leaders who volunteered in the LINC and YPL affinity group’s Child Well-Being Hackathon on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

“I think, typically, hackathons are a half day, full of events, and with our hackathon we wanted to sort of replicate what you see in the business world,” Adams, a YPL board member, says. “We wanted to bring together multiple organizations and have them solve some sort of problem in a short time frame.”

 Lauren Rock, Director of Individual Engagement in the Office of Development for United Way, says this hackathon was an “evolution of United Way’s historical MLK Weekend event” called the Day of Innovation, which was first hosted by United Way with LINC members about six years ago.

The event has evolved over time and the format changed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it allowed LINC and YPL to host a unique skill-based volunteer opportunity.

“This year they are focused on introducing young professionals to United Way’s Investment Priorities, and a more expanded representation of organizations that share in their commitment to Child Well-Being,” Rock says. “On Jan. 18, we were joined by: Atlanta CARES, Atlanta Center for Self-Sufficiency, Boys and Girls Club of Metro Atlanta, Everybody Wins Atlanta, Sneaker Ball Atlanta’s FEATS and InspirEDU.”

These organizations were selected based on a set of criteria that amplified youth voices, created digital access to literacy tools and increased equitable outcomes for communities impacted by structural racism, Rock says.

An event participant said the event was ‘a very fulfilling experience, much better than dropping off goods at the office.”

“For an event that typically lasts a half day and that has overwhelming success in person, we knew that the limitations of the virtual world might impact the overall experience,” Rock says. “Fortunately, the feedback has blown us away and encouraged us to begin planning our next hackathon.”

Adams moved to Atlanta from Topeka, Kansas for school—but Atlanta’s been her home for the past six or seven years, she says. It’s no longer just “a stop along the way,” but where she has settled and set roots for her family. The Emory University graduate has a master’s in public health with a focus in health policy and management. But the hackathon work on MLK Day centered around the issue of economic stability, she says.

“Partner organizations came into the hackathon with a challenge they needed help with,” she says. “I partnered with the Atlanta Center for Self-Sufficiency, and what they were doing had to do with their overall strategy and branding from where they are now compared to where they want to go.”

Making sure families are financially stable starts with making sure a family remains healthy, Adams says.

“What brought me to volunteer more with United Way at first is public health, but as I’ve gotten more involved, it becomes apparent that a part of public health is economic stability,” she says. “It’s hard to pay attention to public health when you aren’t [financially stable].”

United Way of Greater Atlanta has recently aligned its work to invest in four priority areas to improve the well-being of children, families and their communities across Greater Atlanta. United, we can make sure children grow up as strong learners who are college and career ready—we can make sure families that are economically stable are set up for the best possible success for the future.

United Way’s economic stability work focuses on improving job skills while addressing factors like housing, financial education and health costs, which helps ensure families convert an increase in income to sustained wealth—that last point is what grabbed Adams’ attention.

“That’s what I’m most interested in these days. It seems crucial to providing long-term sustainable change in these communities,” she says. “I feel like all of the investment priorities United Way has I align with.

“I just want to bring whatever skillset I have to make those things happen. Being a [YPL] board member, it’s not just about our ideas, but how we can execute more of what United Way wants to do. We are really passionate about this work.”

If you are passionate about giving back to your community, join the LINC and Young Professional Leaders affinity group.

We thank each of you for your continued support throughout 2020. Despite all the curveballs 2020 threw at us, LINC was able to continuously support the Atlanta community when it needed us the most. We thank you for your commitment to volunteerism, education, developing the youth of our community, and to our community’s goal for economic stability.

As a membership, we achieved a lot this year. With your help, we contributed to United Way of Greater Atlanta’s success in raising $25 Million for the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund, as well as $1 Million that has been raised for the United for Racial Equity and Healing Fund. We switched from gathering as young professionals in-person for happy hour to coming together at YPL’s and LINC’s virtual socials where I continue to see the creativity of our committees shine as they come up with new experiences and games to share with us. Over the summer, LINC and YPL put together 256 shoeboxes full of toiletries to be distributed to shelters around Atlanta, a benchmark we hope to surpass in 2021.

As the LINC Board, we’ve seen heightened engagement from you all as members. We’ve seen more friendly faces at committee meetings where your ideas have sparked new energy into our monthly planning. Thank you.

2021 will continue to bring us new challenges, but hopefully it will also bring some level of a return to normalcy. In February we will shift our focus to United Way’s Brighter Futures and in April, College & Career Readiness. We look forward to brining you all some awesome virtual events and volunteerism opportunities.

Thank you again from myself and the LINC Board. Happy holidays, and have a fantastic New Year,

Sincerely,

Rose Reardon

2020-2021 LINC Atlanta Chair

Want to connect with Rose? Message her at linc@unitedwayatlanta.org

As a young professional in the working world, the biggest challenge I faced was learning how to create meaning outside of my career. College offers endless opportunities to get involved in the community through organizations and university sponsored events, but the professional world is much more fragmented and the opportunities are much harder to come by, especially when moving to a new city. LINC (Lead. Impact. Network. Change.) gives individuals aged 22-30 the opportunity to experience a centralized community of people hungry to get involved.

Through involvement in the community, young professionals develop leadership, communication and organizations skills that prove to be invaluable in the workplace. In addition, the network of LINC members goes beyond our city to over 20 other markets, providing ample opportunities to expand your personal network and surround yourself with people who will push you in a positive direction. The most important way to build a purpose filled life is by getting involved with the community now. While it may seem like balancing a career and getting involved with the community can be a challenge, we are here to show you how.

Together, we have created an organization of individuals who are actively engaging in philanthropy, advocacy, volunteerism and leadership in the Atlanta community. United Way’s extensive network and ties to the community provide a tremendous opportunity to learn about where the greatest needs are in the Atlanta community. And it doesn’t stop here – many members further expand their involvement with United Way’s partner organizations outside of their LINC involvement. The opportunities for growth are endless, and LINC gives each individual the network and exposure to understand the needs of our community and make a difference.

When LINC was formed back in 2015, we were encouraged as a network to just “do good” stuff. We convened for happy hours and volunteering. What we have realized? That is not enough. To truly be involved now we need a new commitment to our members and city: to Show Up United. We have to take the lessons shared by the leaders that positively influenced our history, couple it with our innovative skills and talent to support action and education. LINC Atlanta is committed to providing those opportunities to you—our members and partners.

As United Way’s Child Well-Being reframes their work into four priorities: Strong Learners, Economic Stability, Brighter Futures, and College and Career Ready, LINC will focus on creating activities that promote action and education around one of these investment priorities each quarter. We encourage all LINC members and your networks to participate in these experiences, share your ideas by joining a committee, and helping us increase our impact through service.

Our first priority area will be Strong Learners focused on improving third-grade reading levels and overall educational outcomes in Atlanta-based communities with low Child Well-Being scores. Take five minutes to read more about this priority area, and then follow us on Instagram and join our Slack channel to stay in the know!

Mitch Hogan

2020-2021 LINC Atlanta Vice Chair

 

Want to connect with Mitch? Message him at linc@unitedwayatlanta.org.

Hello LINC Atlanta! While the world is ever changing around us, this community has continued to prove that it goes above and beyond to support each other in times of uncertainty. We as LINC Atlanta look forward to bringing the same level of leadership, impact, networking, and change as our years past.

Our upcoming year will be filled with monumental change across the nation and in Greater Atlanta. United Way is continuing its steadfast mission to bring the Greater Atlanta community the resources it needs to succeed, including you as LINC members.

Having been a part of LINC for almost four years, I know our Board will continue to bring Atlanta the kindness, activism, and desire to be active and get hands-on. As the 2020-2021 LINC Board Chair, I’m looking forward to our network growing and getting to know each other over the next 12 months. The individuals that comprise our young professional networks continuously challenge perspectives, bring fresh ideas to the table, and deliver on the need to tangibly transform this city we all call home.

In LINC, we look to connect young professionals with each other, the community, and impact opportunities that speak to their purpose. Whether your focus is on growing your professional network, solving needs around the city, or growing as a young voice in a large community, we look forward to lending a helping a hand in all of it. To help you achieve your goals, over the next 12 months we’ll host a number of virtual events, identify both virtual and non-virtual volunteer opportunities, and get to know one another as we all develop both personally and professionally.

Our year will be one to remember and I look forward to working with each of you to brighten our city. I urge you to reach-out with questions, or just to say hi. And while this year will look different than others, I look forward to LINC bringing the same positive energy and attitude it has always had as we kick-off the year.

Sincerely,

Rose Reardon

2020-2021 LINC Atlanta Chair

Want to connect with Rose? Message her at linc@unitedwayatlanta.org

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!