#WhyWednesday: Sarah Smith

For Sarah Smith, the inspiration to give back came early—and it all started with her Nana. Today, hear why this Young Professional Leaders advisory board member gives, advocates and volunteers with United Way of Greater Atlanta.

Sometimes the inspiration behind community service isn’t a why – it’s a who! Is there someone who has sparked your interest in philanthropy? We’d love to hear all about it. Give your inspiration a shout-out and send in your story to United Way of Greater Atlanta!

YPL Member, Troy Felder
HR Manager, Genuine Parts Company Shared Services

 

YPL: Why did you decide to get involved with United Way of Greater Atlanta’s YPL group

Troy: I have been fortunate enough to lead a few GPC fundraising campaigns for UW. I truly believe that if the financial support and community partnerships are to continue between the two organizations, young professionals must be actively engaged.

 

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

Troy: Income: financial education and job readiness training specifically. I have toured the City of Refuge 3 or more times and will be going again this week! I was there when the first AutoTech class started in the NAPA training center and hired one of the first graduates in a NAPA retail store. To hear that programs have been added in home security and pest control are exciting and gratifying!!

 

YPL: What is your favorite quote?

Troy: “True leaders are ladder builders; they’re not ladder climbers. The ladder builder is always saying, “What can I do to help you? How would I make you successful? If you make your team successful, your team’s going to make you successful” – David L. Brewer III

I heard John Hope Bryant quote Mr. Brewer at the annual HOPE Global Forum, here in Atlanta. #silverrights

Group is more than 1,600 members strong and growing

By Bradley Roberts

There’s a group of young adults working in the Atlanta area with a shared vision to make an impact in the lives of children in Greater Atlanta’s 13-county region.

The Young Professional Leaders affinity group is made up of people 40 and under. It’s a step-up from the LINC group, which is available to people age 22-30. Members of YPL give $500 or more a year to United Way of Greater Atlanta.

“This is a group of people that have varying backgrounds, and they come from different places around the world, but they come together hoping to make an impact by focusing on the Kids Home Initiative,” says Lauren Rock, director of Young Professional Engagement at United Way. “We have various levels of professionals—you see vice presidents and senior managers and a lot of different backgrounds. The big thing, though, is that you have people that want to talk about the issues.”

YPL has adopted the Kids Home Initiative as its primary focus. With Kids Home, children become the focus behind finding a solution to combat Greater Atlanta’s complex issues. Kids Home is a comprehensive solution helping children avoid or escape homelessness by assisting children and families have secure and successful futures. They do it by helping kids stay in school.

Through Kids Home, Rock can introduce YPL members to the Child Well-Being Agenda of United Way of Greater Atlanta.

United Way uses 14 different data-driven child, community and family measures to determine an overall “Child Well-Being” score for each zip code in our 13-county region. This helps United Way leverage your donations in order to maximize the impact and reverse the implications of the Child Well-Being score. By using the child as the lens, United Way can then identify the big picture needs of the community.

Rock says YPL has chosen “basic needs and homelessness as an umbrella” to work under. It’s an easy concept to introduce, she says. The issue is one you can see across the city, and it’s something members can get behind.

“You know that people have basic needs like having clothes, something to eat and a place to rest at night,” Rock said. “The Kids Home [relationship] came out of what most identifies with this group.”

That collective decision to focus on the Kids Home Initiative comes from the YPL board, which is the governing body of the group that is more than 1,600 members strong and continually growing.

Many of those members inquire online or through meetings or volunteer events at their office.

There are some great benefits of joining YPL.

The affinity group takes Greater Atlanta, and it gives you a smaller community of people that you’re on the same level with. Members can be open and clear with one another.

YPL meets regularly with potential members, and the members of the board sometimes assist in recruiting.

The group has several core events that happen each year, Rock says. There is the HoliDAY of Service —on Dec. 1, more than 200 volunteers at nine different sites across the Greater Atlanta Region made a difference in the lives of 300 children and families—personal and professional development events, spring mentoring mixer, which is a partnership with the Tocqueville Society, SaturDAY of Service and The Night for a Brighter Tomorrow Gala.

The YPL Gala will be May 3 at 8 p.m. on the Roof at Ponce City Market.

Rock says funds raised at the Gala goes to support Kids Home directly.

YPL has the benefit of having enough events geared around a common issue together, which makes it appealing to members. There’s an added benefit of networking and getting to know people across many different industries who have similar philosophies and passions as you.

“There are a lot of young professional groups in Atlanta, but what makes us unique is that we’ve got an umbrella view of the city and the city’s organizations,” Rock said. “We have the opportunity to connect you to people in various industries that you may not be able to otherwise.”

To learn more about YPL, click here.

YPL Member, Jessica Sturm
Secondary Special Education Lead
City Schools of Decatur

 

YPL: Why did you decide to get involved with United Way of Greater Atlanta’s YPL group

Jessica: In September, I researched different non-profit organizations in the Atlanta area where I could volunteer and decided to join United Way. After a couple of volunteer opportunities, I decided I wanted to become more involved in the organization. Young Professional Leaders (YPL) group seemed like a perfect fit! I felt this group was a place I could engage with others who are also trying to make a difference, as we are all professionals with a passion for community service. Joining the YPL Gala Committee has been such an amazing experience. The first time I came to a meeting, I felt so energized because there were people sitting around the table I had a lot in common with and all with the same goal – to help the kids! As I continue to become more involved in YPL, I am making new friends and meeting more and more amazing individuals in the Atlanta area who are passionate, strong-willed, and truly want to make this world a better place.

 

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

Jessica: YPL supports Kids Home Initiative and as an educator, this is very close to my heart. I have taught and worked with students who are currently homeless or who were homeless at one point in their life. Homelessness impacts their lives tremendously. It is amazing how the resources many of us take for granted can change a kid’s life and allow them to be and feel successful in school. I am very passionate about this project and all the fundraising we are doing at YPL to assist with stability and resources for the whole family. Children are our future and all children deserve a stable home-life.

 

YPL: What is your favorite quote?

Jessica: “Gratitude reciprocates.”

Joseph E. Heatherly
Audit Partner, Grant Thornton LLP

Tocqueville Society Member
Young Professional Leaders Advisory Board Member

 

 

Joseph E. Heatherly is an audit partner at Grant Thornton LLP, one of the world’s leading organizations of independent audit, tax and advisory firms.

Joseph began his career at Grant Thornton in September 2004 in Charlotte, NC. After spending several years in the audit division of the firm’s Charlotte, NC, and Columbia, SC offices, he completed a two-year rotation within the firm’s national office. In July 2015, Joseph moved to the Atlanta office of Grant Thornton searching for additional career opportunities and was promoted to audit partner in August 2016. Joseph focuses on serving publicly traded and privately held entities within the transportation, retail, service, and pharmaceutical industries.

In addition to his membership in the Tocqueville Society of United Way Atlanta, Joseph is a member of the Young Professional Leaders Advisory Board of United Way Atlanta and serves as Internal Communications Chair. He is also a member of the 2019 Multiple Sclerosis Leadership Class of Atlanta.

Joseph is a native of Jonesville, SC, and received his Bachelors of Science in Accounting and Masters of Professional Accountancy from Clemson University. He resides with his wife, Caroline, and their daughter in Buckhead.

#WhyWednesday: Ronshavius Strozier

“The essence of leadership is servitude.”

Ronshavius Strozier chooses to use her leadership skills in service of her community as a United Way of Greater Atlanta Young Professional Leaders board member. Today, hear why!

United Way Young Professional Leaders is a group of community champions, aged 40 and under, making connections and sparking change in Greater Atlanta. Want to see what YPL is all about? You have two great opportunities coming up: the annual SaturDAY of Service on April 13 and the Night for a Brighter Tomorrow (on the rooftop at Ponce City Market!) on May 3.

#WhyWednesday: Victoria Witherington

At a YPL event, Victoria Witherington saw firsthand the impact of United Way — and she stepped up to do her part. Hear why Victoria gives back to her community as a United Way Young Professional Leaders advisory board member!

United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Young Professional Leaders turn their influence into impact in our communities. Through their signature cause, United Way’s Kids Home Initiative, YPL members are helping families across Greater Atlanta become financially stable and have access to brighter futures. Click here to become a member!

#WhyWednesday: Lonnell Williams

“If it wasn’t for the United Way, I wouldn’t be standing here.”

At a young age, United Way YPL board member Lonnell Williams saw firsthand the painful effects of drug violence and intergenerational poverty—and determined to turn his life in a direction of serving his community and lifting others up. Today, he’s committed to ensuring others never experience the hardship he experienced.

Hear Lonnell share his powerful story:

What’s your “why”? At United Way of Greater Atlanta, you can plug into your purpose as a volunteer, advocate, donor or member of one of our many engagement groups.

YPL Member, Robert Gorski
3rd Party Wholesale Program Manager
SunTrust Bank


YPL: Why did you decide to get involved with United Way of Greater Atlanta’s YPL group?
Bobby: I have always been involved in charity and giving back. My grandfather was big on giving back; in fact, he built the first YMCA in my hometown. My dad is a high school teacher and is very involved with the Ronald McDonald house. Every year my family goes to visit a room we sponsor and donate time and goods. My grandfather, who has since passed, has a scholarship named after him for underprivileged youth who are active in the community giving back. Giving is in my blood. At Sun Trust I was tasked with bringing a team of 800 people together for a charity project, so we set up a wishlist drive for the Ronald McDonald house and got everyone involved. I learned about YPL through Richard Yancey who thought the program would be of great interest to me, and he was right!


YPL: What aspect of United Way’s work in the community are you most passionate about supporting?
Bobby: Giving kids an equal chance no matter their background or financial situation. I want to help out them in the best situation possible to succeed.


YPL: What is your favorite quote?
Bobby: Two of my favorite quotes include:

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” – Pablo Picasso

“If you possess something but you can’t give it away, then you don’t possess it…it possess you.” – Frank Sinatra

YPL Member, Jennifer Sweeny
Operations Manager
Atlanta Gas Light


YPL: Why did you decide to get involved with United Way of Greater Atlanta’s YPL group?
Jennifer: Giving back in my community has been an integral part of my life since childhood as generosity of spirit was consistently modeled by my parents. One of my guiding principles is to be generous with my time, knowledge, skills, ideas and interactions with others. As such, I seek out ways in which I can positively influence those in my community. The YPL group provide opportunities where my personal impact is tangible and I am able to connect with others who are like-minded in their commitment to supporting our communities.


YPL: What aspect of United Way’s work in the community are you most passionate about supporting?
Jennifer: I am most passionate about supporting the efforts that strengthen the framework needed for improving the wellbeing of the families and children in our communities – whether that is homelessness, supporting basic needs or investing in the education of those in our communities.


YPL: What is your favorite quote?
Jennifer: Two of my favorite quotes include:

“At the end of the day it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished… it’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better. It’s about what you’ve given back.” – Denzel Washington

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill