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 Laura Voss, who is a former chair of our Board of Directors, a former chair of our 211 Committee, and a longtime volunteer and supporter of our mission.
What is your role with UWBG?
I started off volunteering on some of the committees, and then served as a member on the Board of Directors for several years. I then had the pleasure of being Chairman for the Board. After all those terms ended, I rotated off the board, so my current role is being an active supporter and Champion of United Way.
I also chaired the 211 committee when it first started. We brought in a great group of volunteers from United Way, a lot of business volunteers and some really strong community volunteers to look at what it would take to launch that. A lot of that included addressing the technical component of dealing with the call center itself and what it takes to pull a call center together, how to focus that and get staffing. That was a really great project. I served as chair for 2 or 3 years and then turned it over to Clif Feltham, who was on the committee with us from the beginning. He just took the idea, ran with it, and grew it into a great resource.
What did this role include? What would a normal day look like for you?
The role of the Chairman is always to engage the other board members. It included a lot of staying in touch, with the executive board members pretty closely but also with the other board members. Pretty early on in my term as Chairman of the Board, we had a UWBG executive announce her retirement. A lot of my activity for the remainder of the term was focused on finding a replacement. We then hired Bill Farmer, who just recently retired. I had a lot of great plans for initiatives I planned to focus on as Chair, but I found that most of my time was spent dealing with the transition. You don’t know what you’re going to get when you’re Chairman!
What do you think is the most special thing about UWBG?
Early on in my professional career, I worked with the Lexington Chamber of Commerce (now Commerce Lexington). Each year, the Chamber does an inter city visit where they take Lexington’s business, education and community leaders to another city that has successfully addressed some critical issues that we are concerned about in our own community. After a couple of those trips, a consistent theme among these cities became apparent to me. They each had a very actively involved business community, their government leaders worked closely with their business community and the education leadership was also very involved.
But then the other part was that they all had very active and strong United Way organizations that had a seat at the table for everything that was being done. I thought that was interesting because prior to that point, I hadn’t really thought of United Way as having that critical or active a role. I mainly thought of United Way as a fundraising organization. But I kept seeing this pattern repeat itself.
I think what’s most special about United Way is its important role in making sure that all the needs of a community are addressed. It’s important to address all the needs of a community, including those of the least fortunate who have needs that may not be as apparent to members of the business community. If a community is going to be successful, you have to be able to address the needs of all the people who make up the fabric of your community.
In your opinion, what positive change has UWBG made in the Bluegrass over the past 100 years?
I think the most positive change has been their evolution from a traditional fundraising organization. When I was growing up I always heard about United Way when they would do their annual campaigns at my father’s place of business every fall. As I became a young adult and young professional, I saw that United Way was really evolving at the same time. They became more focused on advocacy and more action-oriented. They tried to actively identify the really critical issues in the community from a social services and social needs perspective, and then brought together the expertise and leadership to make sure those issues were addressed effectively.
What’s your favorite place in the Bluegrass?
My favorite place is the farm that we live on in Woodford county. It’s only about 19 acres, but we’re in a great spot. We’re tucked in among several larger farms so we get to benefit from our neighbor’s views. We get lots of wonderful wildlife - we often see deer, foxes and lots of birds when we look out our window. We also have retired horses in our paddocks. It’s just a nice view out the window.
What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bluegrass?
I remember being in the car with my parents when I was growing up and staring out of the window looking at all the white fences and fields full of horses. I grew up loving horses and reading everything I could about them. My daughter got involved in riding growing up and is now a competitive equestrian. So my favorite thing to do is anything that has to do with horses. I really look forward to Keeneland in the spring and fall and spend a lot of time at the Horse Park. We literally get world-class equestrian competitions right here in our backyard. The Kentucky Three Day Event is one of my favorite things to do in the Bluegrass.
Thank you for being such a strong part of UWBG, Laura! We appreciate you and all that you do.
“United Way is one of those organizations where you get more out of your involvement than what you give. I’ve always enjoyed every opportunity I’ve had to be involved with UWBG and have met such impressive and passionate people that I probably wouldn’t have crossed paths with otherwise. It’s been a great experience for me throughout my whole career to have been able to volunteer in various programs and to be a member of the organization’s leadership.” -Laura Voss
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!