At United Way of the Bluegrass, we are currently celebrating our centennial year, and are highlighting 100 Heroes who have been important in our fight for the basic needs, education and financial stability of our neighbors over the past century.
Today we are talking with Gregory L. Dixon, a former Board Chair from 2011-2012.
What is your current or former role within UWBG and what does a typical day look like in this role?
I am currently on the Collective Impact Task Force - a group designed to help shape United Way of the Bluegrass’s new vision. They’re building WayPoint Centers in communities to help the organization have more direct contact, and functions where people can go in and receive help. WayPoint offers assistance with multiple health and human service needs all in one place.
Once you’ve served as a Board Chair, they thank you. You’ve put in quite a bit of time in this leadership role. The organization allows you to relax and step back and be involved however you want.
What is your favorite project that you have worked on with UWBG or that you have seen UWBG work on?
There isn’t just one. I would say that my favorite project has been helping the interactions between United Way of the Bluegrass and the partners they work with. I took it very personally as the Board Chair to have great relationships through the good times and the bad. While I was the Board Chair, fundraising was down a little bit. We had a new CEO, Bill Farmer, and we went and personally visited with our top 5 partners to let them know that we were still going to be there for them even though funding was a little off. Having that open dialog makes the good times with those people and partnerships even better.
What do you think is the most special thing about UWBG?
Many people don’t realize that United Way doesn’t just hand out money. United Way also helps organizations collaborate. Sometimes one organization doesn’t realize that another is doing the exact same thing, and might be doing it better, or that they could work together to save both organizations resources.
As far as the funding process goes, there is a process that agencies have to go through with many checks and balances. A lot of people want to give directly so that the organization gets all of the funding, but they don’t know exactly what will be done with the donation. United Way validates what happens to the donation once it is given to the organization, and they have a good idea of what the needs are across the region.
Several years ago, United Way created a targeted standard for agencies. It made organizations really focus on what they are doing and how they can do it better. It encouraged organizations to focus on fewer things that they can do well instead of trying to do many things at once.
If you were encouraging someone to get involved with UWBG, what would you encourage them to do throughout their time with UWBG, or what advice would you give them?
I would tell them to volunteer, even if it is just for the weekend. There was a time that we did a fundraiser where we spent two hours in a parking lot filled with jungle gyms and games. We brought in kids and we just played. It was probably more fun for me than it was for them, even though the kids had a great time, too.
I tell people that if they volunteer, they will see what their heart tells them. It isn’t for everybody. Not everyone feels the need to help out, but if you volunteer for a short amount of time and it tugs at your heart, you can dive deeper and get involved with an organization like United Way of the Bluegrass. It has to be a passion for you or it won’t be fun.
I’ve met great people through UWBG. Some of those relationships I still have today. Bill Farmer was the CEO while I was the board chair. When he left the organization about two years go, I went over and met with him on his last day to say our goodbyes, and we still keep in touch today.
What is your favorite place and thing to do in the Bluegrass?
My main favorite is music. I love live music. There is a little venue in Lexington called The Burl. I’ve been twice in the last week. We go to Manchester Music Hall often, too. We go to a lot of shows throughout the region. Live music is just something I really value.
What is your favorite local restaurant in the Bluegrass area?
My go-to classic is Giuseppe's. Italian food is hard to go wrong with. Giuseppe's is always good and always well portioned. You usually get a couple of meals out of it.
Thank you for being such a strong part of UWBG, Gregory! We appreciate you and all that you've done.
“When I was asked to be the Board Chair, I was very surprised. I asked if they were sure they wanted me because I didn’t work for a big company and my name wasn’t well known in the community. They said they wanted me, and that they thought I would do a good job.” ~Gregory L. Dixon
To learn more about how we are continuing to serve the Bluegrass in 2021, click here.
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!