Over the course of 2021, we will feature 100 Heroes who have been instrumental in our fight for the basic needs, education and financial stability of our neighbors for the past century. To learn more about how we are continuing to serve the Bluegrass in 2021, click here.
In honor of Women’s History Month, we are excited to feature some women who have played an important role in UWBG. Today we are interviewing Julie George, who is a member of Women United, a UWBG advocate at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU), and a longtime volunteer.
What is your role with UWBG?
I lived in central Kentucky during high school and I was involved in Girl Scouts. We were given a lot of opportunities to travel, but my family didn’t have the money to pay for it. I learned very early on that the United Way/Girl Scouts partnership allowed me to participate in a lot of the activities. I appreciated that UWBG helped support me financially so that I could have those opportunities. So that started when I was a teenager. When I finished graduate school and got my first professional job, within the first couple weeks somebody mentioned a United Way campaign. I thought why not - it’s just a dollar or two out of my paycheck. But then I started paying closer attention to how I give money, where it goes, and how easy it was to give to United Way and let them do the work to determine who gets the money.
I started at EKU twenty one years ago and noticed they also had a United Way campaign. I got involved and started working with the committee on campus. I would plan events, chili cookoffs, and other things to get people motivated. I worked in the library, so we invited recipients of United Way grants like the Salvation Army to come speak to the library staff to encourage them to give. I found myself co-chairing the campaign for the University and I’ve been involved with Women United through that. I’ve had the recipient experience from receiving funds through United Way and then been able to give my own money to help support people and organizations, so it’s a true full-circle experience.
What did this role include? What would a normal day look like for you?
When I was working on the committee at EKU or chairing the campaign, we would plan different events. We would have a booth at basketball games to collect donations and provide different “pass the bucket” opportunities. We tried to think of ways to involve everyone on campus and would have an open enrollment benefits fair. I would always staff a booth for United Way to encourage people to give. But one thing that was really interesting about that booth was that I was also able to provide information and hand out the 211 card to some of our employees who might benefit from the connection to resources. I felt like I was serving both ways by collecting money but also connecting people with the resources they needed.
Can you tell me some more about being the campaign chair for Eastern Kentucky University?
UWBG’s partnership with EKU has gone way back and I’ve worked with them both for many years. Being a co-chair of EKU’s fundraising campaign has been a great way for me to connect with people on campus, think of ways to reach out, communicate with people and have everyone see each other as humans. We all need help, and can sometimes be that help for someone else. It’s been a really nice community to talk about how we can be participating in both sides of that.
What do you think is the most special thing about UWBG?
I like how United Way helps people across the continuum. It’s not just one certain group of people. Fundraising is hard and it takes time, and sometimes smaller organizations don't have the ability to do their own fundraising. UWBG can step in and take over the responsibility of that professional fundraising so the organizations can focus on their purpose of helping people while UWBG provides financial support.That’s what I think the most positive thing about United Way is, plus they help the entire community, not just one specific group.
In your opinion, what positive change has UWBG made in the Bluegrass over the past 100 years?
I appreciate the early literacy and education component. I think most would agree that education is the great equalizer for everyone. Having my own children in the public school system, I noticed that some kids were showing up to school in different places and were unprepared in some ways. They were behind before even getting started. Of all the initiatives that UWBG works with, I think the early literacy education and education in general is the most powerful and impactful piece, because education is the great equalizer. Helping kids get a good first start or supporting them as they move through their education is very important and beneficial.
What’s your favorite place in the Bluegrass?
For the last year, my favorite place has been my house! But other than that, I really appreciate all the different appearances of the Bluegrass. You can go walk in the mountains in Madison county, or go to Lexington and see the rolling hills. I appreciate the vast way we can see our area in central Kentucky.
What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bluegrass?
I’m very involved in my children’s school. They are in the Fayette County School System and I love going to events that are sponsored by the school. You can go to an orchestra concert, a play or a fair that is produced by our community. They are amazing events and the price is usually free or really cheap. And what an experience - when you attend one of those events, you are seeing a huge section of the community come together. Both of my kids participated in the high school musical when they put on Phantom of the Opera. My son was in the orchestra pit and my daughter participated in the play. Looking up at the stage, the cross-section of the children on the stage was so beautiful and the product they put together was so beautiful and it cost me about $3! So my favorite thing to do is see the community come together and see everyone involved.
I enjoy working with Women United because of the fact that we can come together and work on a group project that we all have a passion for. Women United has been a great way for me to meet like-minded, service-oriented people outside of my work community that I wouldn’t necessarily have met otherwise. We’ve put on some really neat events and helped a lot of people and organizations. I love the United Way, but I also love this focused group. - Julie George
Thank you for being such a strong part of UWBG, Julie! 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!