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 Mary-Alicha Weldon, who is a member of our Fayette County Board of Trustees, a Women United Steering Committee Member, a former Loaned Executive and a longtime supporter of our mission.
What is your role with UWBG?
I’ve been a volunteer with UWBG and have been involved in various committees for them in the past. I recently celebrated 25 years with Fifth Third Bank, in addition to 25-years of involvement with United Way. I started at the bank in 1995 in their Management Training program. Within my first two weeks at the Bank, I was asked to participate in the UWBG’s Loaned Executive program. Fifth Third Bank basically loaned me to United Way for a three-month period to work with them during their campaign season. I worked with a number of companies to help manage their employee campaigns, arrange speakers and agency tours, in addition to speaking in front of their employee base. It was a wonderful experience to be just out of college and be able to develop time management, public speaking and networking skills. It also ingrained in me how United Way and its member agencies play such a vital role in our community.
A couple years later, I served on their Loaned Executive committees. I would go to other companies and talk to their Presidents or CEOs about the benefits of the United Way Loaned Executive program and the skills that their employees would gain from that experience. I currently sit on the Fayette County Board of Trustees, where we work with smaller grants for our county and agencies within our county. I’m also a member of the Steering Committee for Women United, which is the women’s business resource group for United Way. I’ve been the chair of the UWBG campaign for Fifth Third bank for a number of years and am a Leadership Investor.
What did this role include? What would a normal day look like for you?
The Loaned Executive Program was a wonderful experience. At first, when I got to the bank and was asked to participate in the program and would be on-site with the UWBG for 3 months, I was a bit hesitant. But the experience was more than I had ever imagined it would be. I had the opportunity to interact with a number of business leaders right out of graduate school. I learned so much about United Way and their partner agencies and the solutions and benefits they bring to the community. For these three months, participating in the Loaned Executive program was my full-time job. Some days I would start working at 8 a.m., and some days I was there until midnight if I was working with a company with multiple shifts. There were probably ten of us in the program that year, and I was so fortunate to meet such a diverse and great group of individuals, many of which I am still close to today. United Way moved away from the Loaned Executive program for the past few years, although they are interested in revisiting this concept for future campaigns and we hope, past pandemic, that this could become a reality again in our community.
I’ve always been an advocate for United Way, especially in the workplace. The Women United program is also really wonderful because it focuses on female Leadership Investors and brings us together to impact a certain area of the community. We’ve focused on school readiness and education, so that’s the real focus of our initiative. The program is about more than just donating. We’ve also done a lot of philanthropic mentoring programs and are involved with UWBG’s Sweet Dreams project. I’ve just come in to help UWBG at different times and in different capacities. Once you become a part of the United Way family, it becomes part of you. You continue to advocate for them and the good work they do in our community.
Can you tell us about the partnership between Fifth Third Bank and UWBG?
Fifth Third came to Lexington in the early 1990’s, and I joined in 1995. Sam Barnes, who was our Market’s President and CEO, set the example that philanthropy was not the exception, but the rule. We were expected to give back. Sam believed that a stronger community is a rising tide that lifts all boats. A stronger community means a stronger bank. He really talked the talk and walked the walk.
What do you think is the most special thing about UWBG?
The most special thing is UWBG’s holistic member agencies and their umbrella of services. I actually utilized their services with my son, who was severely speech delayed. He went to Lexington Hearing and Speech, a United Way agency, for several years. United Way’s umbrella of agencies really fills a need for so many in our community. They help and direct people to all the resources they need that encompass their particular situation.
In your opinion, what positive change has UWBG made in the Bluegrass over the past 100 years?
I think their most recent goal was getting 20,000 families to self-sufficiency. It’s not just a handout, it’s a hand up. Many of UWBG’s goals are aligned with Fifth Third Bank’s pillars around our Community. It’s about efforts around programs affecting affordable housing, education, workforce development and financial wellness. They are not just trying to find short-term solutions for our community’s needs, but looking for long-term, sustainable benefits and outcomes. Instead, they work with those families to put them on the path of self-sufficiency where, at some point, they won’t need those agency services anymore.
What’s your favorite place in the Bluegrass?
I always loved Triangle Park in downtown Lexington. It’s so much more vibrant these days than when I was in school - there’s always something going on! I also love the Fifth Third Bank Pavilion right across the street. It not only bears our name, but is also a site for commerce, philanthropy and community. I’m really thrilled that Fifth Third was a big part of bringing that to our community.
What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bluegrass?
I have two children, and so much of our lives over the past 10+ years has been centered around their sports. I have enjoyed going all over the Bluegrass area with my daughter for basketball or soccer and am also grateful for the people and friends we have met along the way. Aside from that, we also enjoy going to Keeneland with friends and family, and hope to explore more of the Bourbon Trail that we are fortunate to have here in Central Kentucky.
Thank you for being such a strong part of UWBG, Mary-Alicha! 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!