Lincoln is getting a reputation as being a hip and happening town. Part of that vibe is due to the energy of a 40 or younger group that has found enormous satisfaction not necessarily from being hip, but from giving both time and money to help Lincoln, particularly McPhee Elementary, a small inner city school where 92 percent of the children qualify for reduced or free meals.
T. J. Casady, vice president at Union Bank was tapped to help get the group started in 2011. He was joined by a cadre of other United Way supporters including Katie Thompson from Wells Fargo and Chrissy Waido from Zoetis (formerly Pfizer Animal Health). They, among others, have formed a steering committee that has gotten the Emerging Leaders ball rolling.
United Way’s Emerging Leaders didn’t waste time. They set serious goals, like raising $50 thousand a year over the next five years to help McPhee in addition to working on a structure for mentoring and volunteering there. Some of the money is targeted to fund more counselors to help children cope with issues common with families who struggle with mental illness among other family issues that poverty can bring on. Other funds will go toward providing additional mentoring relationships for youth and their families.
Katie Thompson grew up in a family where, despite their modest circumstances, giving back was “super important.” She sees Emerging Leaders as a great opportunity for young leaders to get involved and give back in Lincoln. The steering committee is primed to make joining a positive experience. “We’ll steer them in the right direction,” she says, “and the reward will be amazing.”
Chrissy Waido has put her many years as a United Way campaign coordinator to good use as a steering committee member. She’s been impressed with McPhee. “It’s a bright and happy place with positive messages everywhere. Teachers are having conversations with children early on about graduating and going to college. It’s inspiring.” “Kids want to be there,” Casady adds. “It’s where they get two meals and emotional as well as educational support. We want to make sure they have the opportunity to have a better life and stay in Lincoln.”
Casady, Thompson and Waido are aligned in their belief that Emerging Leaders can impact McPhee School, the city of Lincoln and other schools in a positive way. All report that volunteer opportunities, such as reading to children has been among the most satisfying that the group has experienced. “They love it and express their appreciation as only children can, with hugs and adorable thank yous,” Waido reports.
Whether it’s networking gatherings in the Rail Yard, reading to children on United Way’s Day of Caring or digging a bit deeper to fund the needs at McPhee, the United Way Emerging Leaders are positive, goal-oriented and ready to welcome new members.
For more information about Emerging Leaders, go to unitedwaylincoln.org or contact Lona Thompson, 402-441-7213 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Story development and copywriting by CJJ Communications