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.
Today we are interviewing Melinda Kemp, who is a member of Women United and a longtime UWBG supporter and volunteer.
What is your role with UWBG?
I have volunteered with UWBG since the late 70’s, and have become more involved over the years. I started by encouraging corporations to donate themselves, apart from the employee campaigns. And I just started getting more involved from there. I was on the Fund Distribution Committee until I retired in 2014. I was also on the Audit Committee, where we would go in and look at financials. When United Way started requiring financials for fund distributions, we would go in and look at their financials. I served on that team for many years.
I’ve also been involved with the Sweet Dreams Project for 5 or 6 years and really enjoy that. At one point, I recognized the name of a student I tutored through a program at Woodhill Community Center. One day she came in with her sack and I realized that I had packed that sack for her, which was really very cool. I’ve enjoyed working with kids. I’ve done the reading program with UWBG by going to schools and reading to classrooms, or doing one-on-one tutoring at William Wells Brown after school.
I’ve been a member of Women United for at least 10 years. It’s a great group full of a lot of smart women. We’re all about working with kids, especially those who are challenged economically and educationally. A few years back, we really hit the nail on the head with our three-stemmed approach: education, health and getting people out of poverty.
What did this role include? What would a normal day look like for you?
I was one of maybe two bankers on the Audit Committee team. That team made decisions on whether we felt certain organizations could pass an audit. If we needed more information, we would reach out for that. The whole purpose was to make sure all of our 501(c)3s were financially sound, which made a huge difference going forward.
As a member of Women United, I have been active in fundraising and volunteering for United Way for many years. I’ve enjoyed helping with projects like Sweet Dreams, or even serving beer at Thursday Night Live to help fundraise for the organization. I also volunteered with the reading program at William Wells Brown, helping students with reading and homework.
What do you think is the most special thing about UWBG?
I think the most special thing is the way that they’ve structured the organization for efficiency and transparency, and their regional impact across ten counties. Over the years they have really streamlined things and have a much clearer vision and mission. Many years ago, we would just give money away to agencies without really considering the impact and efficiency of our partners. At one point, we really started looking at the impact of these funds on the community and asking if it was the right impact. I think UWBG leadership became more interested in truly helping our communities and creating long-term change instead of just raising money and giving it away.
In your opinion, what positive change has UWBG made in the Bluegrass over the past 100 years?
I was reading the other day about the community chest fund, which I remember from when I was growing up. They have been getting things right, and staying true to their values while also progressing. They make sure resources are getting to the appropriate places or going to the appropriate needs. Over the past 20 years, UWBG has been moving forward instead of staying stagnant, which has a lot to do with the management and the people on the board.
What’s your favorite place in the Bluegrass?
I really enjoy visiting Southland Drive in Lexington. There’s a wine bar now, too!
What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bluegrass?
I like to go down to Proud Mary BBQ. It’s right on the river and they have a lot of live music and good food.
Thank you for being such a strong part of UWBG, Melinda! 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!