We are kicking off a new blog series to show appreciation for some of the people who have been instrumental in our fight for the basic needs, education and financial stability of our neighbors for the past century. Over the course of 2021, we will feature 100 of these heroes. We hope you will continue to tune in as we highlight some truly amazing people who have made a huge difference in our community. To learn more about how we are continuing to serve the Bluegrass in 2021, click here.
Today we are interviewing Bill Wilson, former chair (2016-2018) and current member of our Board of Directors. Bill has served as a member of the Board of Directors since July 2009!
What is your role within UWBG?
I’m a member of the United Way of the Bluegrass Board of Directors and a former Chair.
Can you tell us about what being on the board includes, or what a normal day would look like for you?
As a board member, I’m in a policy position. Board members are concerned about policy in several areas. We’re advocates for the board and are involved with fundraising, advocacy and community relations. As a board, we only have one employee, which is president and CEO, Timothy Johnson. We work to support him as well as his thoughts and visions. We also work with the United Way staff to put together a long-range strategic plan, and then monitor that plan to make sure it is implemented and resourced appropriately and properly.
In terms of a normal day, as the chair, I would be called upon every now and then to accompany the CEO when he would visit big donors. I would also sometimes do the ceremonial welcoming of people to an event, give out awards, or make presentations to the staff on behalf of the board. I would also give speeches or presentations advocating for UWBG’s different programs or initiatives. But the day-to-day operation of UWBG is left up to Timothy, and we’re just policy makers and policy reflectors.
What do you think is the most special thing about UWBG?
I usually sum it up in two words, transparency and collaboration. Whatever we do and however we do things, we do it with a high degree of integrity. If you look at our organizational values, one of the first things on the list is accountability. We try to make sure that when people give money, they know the money is used appropriately and that we report back to the donor as to how those monies are used. Collaboration is one of our major strengths, which is very important since this is a volunteer-driven organization. On special occasions, we call upon members of the community for help.
I’m particularly pleased with how we survey the community to figure out what the specific needs are and then adjust our impact plans and allocation process to meet those needs. One time our goal was to reduce poverty in Lexington which is a huge, bold goal. Today we’re trying to be a bit more focused in figuring out how we can allocate resources toward specific community and neighborhood concerns. One thing that I’m proudest about is our ability to collaborate with other organizations. We don’t have to be at the front of everything, we just want to help facilitate and use the resources that we have in order to bring about solutions to community issues.
In your opinion, what positive change has UWBG made in the Bluegrass over the past 100 years?
If we see a need or that there is a specific issue that needs to be addressed, we set up proposals where agencies can request money. They come in and demonstrate how their organization is going to match up to those needs. United Way is no longer simply fund-driven in that it’s a pass-through organization. Yes, we receive money and disburse that to agencies to handle basic needs. But when there are specific issues or things that people need, we do the very best we can to address them. One good example is that many people came up to us and told us that they needed financial assistance, specifically with their taxes. UWBG then created CKEEP, a free tax preparation service that helped get people over 4 million dollars in tax returns in 2019 alone. That’s an example of how we determine a need and then address it in the best way we can. Those are the kinds of things that I think have improved and been initiated in the last few years.
What’s your favorite place in the Bluegrass?
I really like the parks in Lexington. I enjoy the annual arts fair at Woodland Park to just mill around and see what’s going on. I also like going downtown, especially on special occasions like the 4th of July where it seems like the town comes alive. I like to be where the people are. Lexington has so many restaurants and before Covid, my friends and I would go to a new restaurant once a month to just sit and enjoy the fare.
One of my other favorite places is the Horse Park. Whenever I have people visiting from out of town, I take them to the Horse Park. There are so many different activities out there - from movies, to shows about different horses, learning how to ride, how farriers work, it’s just a wonderful place where you can easily spend the whole day just going through the museum alone. I also like going downtown to the Kentucky Theatre because they have a lot of classics that you don’t get at some of the other theatres. Lexington is just a beautiful area and a beautiful city to live in. I enjoy all aspects of the community.
What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bluegrass?
I like to walk, and the Legacy Trail is a neat place. I don’t have a bicycle right now, but I enjoy walking the trail. I also like to play tennis and I’ve been to just about every tennis facility that we have here.
“People in the Bluegrass love their United Way. They speak very positively about it and know some of the many projects and things that we’ve been involved in - and many of them have been involved as well. I’m very pleased with the branding of the organization and how the community perceives and supports us. I’ve never heard anything negative about the United Way. And I also credit that to the staff. We’ve got one of the finest staff that you could think of. These people work hard and are committed and dedicated. They don't just come to work, this is a part of who they are. They could talk for days about projects and how they get involved with them. We’ve got a great staff, leadership, outstanding board, and a community that’s equally as supportive.” - Bill Wilson
Thank you for being such a strong part of UWBG, Bill! We appreciate you and all that you do.
Do you know someone who has worked alongside United Way of the Bluegrass in the past century who should be considered for our 100 Heroes series? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your nomination!