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.

YPL Member Flashback, Gayle Cabrera
BB&T (Truist)
Business Banking Leader, SVP

YPL: Tell me about your experience as a Young Professional Leaders member? What did your involvement look like?
Gayle: YPL will always hold a special place in my heart. This is where my involvement with United Way was able to move from monetary only to investing my time and talent with the organization. As a charter member of the cabinet, this was truly a working board.  The nice thing was we were all new so no one had a head start. The challenging part was we were all new with no road map. The best part was we all came to the table with ideas of how to be successful and were all willing to roll up our sleeves and do the good work that needed to be done. As the youngest person on the Charter Cabinet, it was important for me that all Young Professionals be able to be a part of this movement. I recognized with my peers that not all Young Professionals would be able to give at the $1,000 level right off the back. They could be paying back student loans or just be adjusting to all the bills that came with adulthood.  We were able to establish the step-up program to get people in the door to see the value in being a member. This paved the way for LINC. Involvement ten years ago mainly was thinking about our vision and how we could set the stage to achieve our vision. It was a lot of trial and error. But after 10 years, I would say we had more successes that have led to the growth of this cabinet!

YPL: What is one of your favorite memories or moments during your time with Young Professional Leaders?
Gayle: My favorite moments were the meetings. For some reason, they thought Fridays at 7:30 am were a great time for us to meet. But every time I walked into that room, I forgot how early it was and got excited to be with my team to make a difference. We usually sat in the same seats even though they were not assigned. I have gained some great friends and mentors through YPL.  From a volunteer perspective, my favorite memory was our first Junior Leadership Academy. I remember one of the young men participating was from New York and had been sent to live with family here in Georgia because he was getting mixed up with the wrong crowds in New York. His mother was a professor at Columbia University. I loved the moment I met him because it was a humbling reminder that you do not have to come from a bad situation to end up in one.

YPL: How are you continuing to stay involved in the community? How did your involvement in Young Professional Leaders affect your decision to give back?
Gayle: I continue to stay involved in the community through United Way. After my YPL terms, I migrated to what Women’s Leadership Council that is now known has Cole Women United. I have stayed involved and chaired this cabinet in 2018-2019. I was also set to chair Leading a Life of Purpose prior to it being cancelled due to COVID-19. I love attending UW Volunteer Events and brining my children so that volunteerism and philanthropy will not be new to them as they get older and will just be a way of life. They enjoy packing shoeboxes and decorating them and packing snacks for children in need. They will be ready to join YPL!

YPL: What would you say to someone who is considering joining Young Professional Leaders?
Gayle: This was the most beneficial activity outside of my job that I could have ever been a member. I grew personally through seeing the work that United Way does. I always tell people United Way helped shape how I raise my kids. I attended so many sessions on education and the way a child’s brain forms in the first three years. I learned about the true effects of literacy and the way our vocabulary development is influenced by it. There are so many things that I was able to learn for myself just by volunteering and giving back. But on a professional level, I was able to gain some of my best mentors and friends through the cabinet. I still connect with many of them. And if we don’t connect often, you would never know it when we get into a room together! At the 10 year anniversary social, it proved that our bond is a special one!

YPL: What is your favorite quote or personal mantra?
Gayle: You can have it all, just not all at the same time! This is important to me as we juggle work/life balance. It was a quote I learned at one of the YPL Leadership Luncheons as has stuck with me through all the years. Because of this quote, I feel like I have it all!

YPL Member Flashback, Brittany Wyatt
Sr. Regional Marketing Manager, Allstate Insurance Company


YPL: Tell me about your experience as a Young Professional Leaders member? What did your involvement look like?
Brittany: My experience as a YPL member was one of the most memorable and meaningful of all of my civic leadership experiences. I served on the YPL board for 3 years and was able to help coordinate and participate in many community service and giveback opportunities.


YPL: What is one of your favorite memories or moments during your time with Young Professional Leaders?
Brittany: One of my favorite memories was helping to plan the first YPL Black Tie Brunch. It was so cool to be a part of something that has evolved into a signature event for YPL and that raises funds for such amazing causes.


YPL: How are you continuing to stay involved in the community? How did your involvement in Young Professional Leaders affect your decision to give back?
Brittany: I continue to stay involved in the community by volunteering my time and skills to multiple civic organizations, including an occasional YPL event to continue supporting the great work they are doing. My YPL involvement affected my decision to give back because it put me in a position to see the real need in our community and how my small contributions can make a huge impact.


YPL: What would you say to someone who is considering joining Young Professional Leaders?
Brittany: I would absolutely encourage anyone considering joining to just do it! It’s an awesome opportunity to partner with like-minded young professionals to help make our city a better place…and you make some really great friendships along the way!


YPL: What is your favorite quote or personal mantra?
Brittany: One of my favorite quotes is “At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel” – Maya Angelou

YPL Member, Kelly Earl
Marketing Communications Consultant, RGP


YPL: What inspired you to become involved with Young Professionals Leaders?
Kelly: I was introduced to Young Professional Leaders (YPL) through a friend on the YPL board. As a 2016 United Way VIP board leadership alumna, I knew firsthand the United Way’s impact in the Greater Atlanta community. I also understood how my contributions help bring a positive change in the lives of others. I was very much interested in learning more about YPL as an extension of United Way. I started attending YPL monthly mixers, participating in volunteer opportunities, and building relationships with members. At the time, I was also serving on a nonprofit board. At the end of my term, I decided to continue my passion for community engagement and volunteerism through YPL.


YPL: What aspect of United Way’s work in the community are you most passionate about supporting?
Kelly: My passion has always been serving others where I could best lend my professional expertise. The United Way’s work in providing resources to the homeless for self-sufficiency and primary health care access to communities resonates with me the most. In my professional career, I’ve supported a variety of public health communications and engagement projects for the federal government that focuses on immunizations, antibacterial resistance, injury prevention, and emergency operations. I’ve also had the opportunity to serve on the board of an organization that provides free home repairs for low-income seniors. Many of these seniors are at risk of losing their homes due to rising healthcare costs and expensive critical home repairs. The United Way’s work with homelessness and affordable health care allows symmetry between my passion and my career.


YPL: How do you balance your professional life with giving back? What motivates you to stay involved?
Kelly: Giving back brings me great joy and connects me to my purpose. Servant leadership is at the core of my being, so giving back has become a way of life. To achieve work-life balance, I select volunteer opportunities based on my availability, time commitment, and workload. I’ve had to reassess what I could give when opportunities have required more effort. It’s important not to burnout. I’m motivated because I know that the work I do with YPL impacts those in need throughout Greater Atlanta helping to build sustainable communities.


YPL: What would you say to someone who is considering joining Young Professional Leaders?
Kelly: Becoming a member of YPL is more than a title; it’s about being a servant leader and advocate for the mission of the United Way. You become a stakeholder for community empowerment and sustainability for children and families of Greater Atlanta. Even before joining YPL, I was greeted with enthusiasm from members dedicated to ensuring the Greater Atlanta community thrives. Joining YPL is an excellent opportunity for young leaders to make a positive impact in the community through volunteerism, advocacy, and philanthropy while growing their professional and personal networks. The volunteer opportunities are engaging and the networking events are unparalleled. I highly recommend any emerging leader to consider joining YPL for a rewarding and fulfilling experience.


YPL: What is your favorite quote or personal mantra?
Kelly: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.”
1 Corinthians 13:13

YPL Member, Michael Gillin
Operations Director, Ericsson

YPL: Tell me about your experience as a Young Professional Leaders member? What did your involvement look like?
Michael: One of the best experiences of my life!! Having the opportunity to develop the vision of what started as an Emerging Leaders initiative with Aiko Bethea and then to have Milton Little agree to move forward with the idea was a surreal and amazingly rewarding experience. When I was asked to be the first chair of YPL it was truly an honor to serve in this role back in 2010-2011.

YPL: What is one of your favorite memories or moments during your time with Young Professional Leaders?
Michael: What started as a great idea from Katerina Taylor of the Services Committee that first year turned into one of the best ideas of our initial board – to have a service event with a social gathering afterwards. It was called a Service Social back then and now has evolved to the Day of Service. My family annually serves during the Holiday of Service event (one of our favorites). My children were so excited to be interviewed for the 2013 HoliDay of Service video and that was a highlight for me and my family (still have the video 😊). Also, having six of our original board member pictures put on the sides of the Gifts In Kind Truck was pretty cool as well.

YPL: How are you continuing to stay involved in the community? How did your involvement in Young Professional Leaders affect your decision to give back?
Michael: After starting and serving on the YPL board I joined the board of Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta. Janice McKenzie-Crayton who was the CEO at the time knew about my background starting YPL and asked to me co-chair a new young leaders board called Young Leaders Council with Amy Agami. It was a great experience and honor to be able to serve both in a board role and start a second young leaders board as well.

YPL: What would you say to someone who is considering joining Young Professional Leaders?
Michael: It is a great opportunity to serve with other young leaders that are focused on making a big, positive impact in our community. The impact is evident in the many service events hosted every year by YPL as well as the $220,000 raised at the annual black tie event “Night for a Brighter Tomorrow” in 2019. Young Professional Leaders are made up of some of the most dynamic and giving community leaders. There have been 14 “40 Under 40” Atlanta Business Chronicle award winners in the nine years YPL overlapped with the survey (2020 list is not out yet). That is 1 ½ YPL members a year! Also, the Atlanta Business Chronicle highlighted United Way Young Professional Leaders as one of the premier young leaders organizations in Atlanta a few years ago.

YPL: What is your favorite quote or personal mantra?
Michael: Be the change you wish to see in the world – Mahatma Gandhi

YPL Member, Shamriel Lowery
Learning & Development Specialist, Kaiser Permanente

YPL: Why did you decide to get involved with United Way of Greater Atlanta’s YPL group?
Shamriel: I decided to get involved in YPL because community service and advocacy is near to my heart, and as a young professional in Atlanta I’m always looking for cool opportunities to network with like minded individuals. This group combined two things I love to do in one perfect fit. I’ve met some amazing individuals and done a lot of good things in the community through YPL.


YPL: What aspect of United Way’s work in the community are you most passionate about supporting?
Shamriel: I am most passionate about supporting the disadvantaged in their efforts to navigate high school and the transition into college. I enjoy being able to assist with applications and help with job fairs and really provide vital information about how to be a successful adult despite your background.


YPL: What is your favorite quote?
Shamriel: “Don’t count the days. Make the days count.” – Muhammad Ali

#WhyWednesday: Juliet Udeochu

Juliet Udeochu is the Volunteer Recruitment Manager for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Atlanta and serves on our Young Professional Leaders (YPL) board. She believes the children of Greater Atlanta are our future. Today, hear why she is passionate about ensuring the children are well in our region.

United Way, along with dozens of partners, has developed a set of measures that the community can use to assess how its children, the families that support them and the community that surrounds them, are doing. This enables us to track our progress and determine what levers are the most effective in ensuring “all the children are well.” See how the children are doing in your community here.

YPL Member, Channing Reames
Supply Chain Analyst II
Genuine Parts Company

YPL: Why did you decide to get involved with United Way of Greater Atlanta’s YPL group?
Channing: I’ve always felt a calling to make an impact in my community by working to help others. Being in United Way’s YPL, they have given me the direction and tools to achieve that calling.


YPL: What aspect of United Way’s work in the community are you most passionate about supporting?
Channing: United Way’s campaign to help children in our community is one that I consider myself the most passionate about.

YPL: What is your favorite quote?
Channing: “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” – Henry Ford

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: Curtis Carter

“It’s important to me to get in, roll up my sleeves and volunteer.”

Curtis Carter is a customer engagement manager for Campus Management Corp. and a Young Professional Leaders (YPL) board member. Curtis found that volunteering through YPL gives him an opportunity to meet new people and serve his community. Today, hear why Curtis donates his time and talent to United Way!

United Way of Greater Atlanta Young Professional Leaders (YPL), is a compassionate, committed group of individuals on a mission to encourage the spirit of philanthropy. YPL members represent some of the top emerging leaders in Greater Atlanta, including Atlanta Business Chronicle’s “40 under 40,” as well as community and civic leaders. Chosen as one of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s five professional clubs for millennials, YPL is the group of choice for community-minded young people. In 2015, 1,335 members donated more than $1.9 million to United Way of Greater Atlanta. Join the YPL movement as they take ownership today of Atlanta’s tomorrow. For more information, contact ypl@unitedwayatlanta.org.