Sam Mitchell - Valvoline CEO; Centennial Campaign Co-chair; Major Supporter

Updated: Aug 11


At United Way of the Bluegrass, we are currently celebrating our centennial year. We 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.


We recently spoke with Sam Mitchell, the CEO of Valvoline and a major supporter of United Way of the Bluegrass. Read below to see what he has to say about his work with Valvoline and UWBG!


What is your current role with Valvoline and UWBG, and what does a typical day look like in this role?

I am the CEO of Valvoline. I love my job. Every day is different from the next. Today, for example, we are working on our growth plans for our international business segment and our Valvoline Instant Oil Change stores. Tomorrow, I’ll be working with my leadership team, there are 11 of us, on strategy issues as we get ready for our board of directors meeting. Tomorrow, most of my afternoon will be spent with investors. Like I said, every day is different, which is fun. The business is always working with different people on challenging opportunities.


Timothy, Kendall and the United Way of the Bluegrass team asked me to be co-chair for United Way of the Bluegrass’ centennial campaign and I gladly accepted. UWBG is currently celebrating its centennial year and we’re off to a great stuff, having a lot of fun along the way. The goal is to raise $21 million dollars over the next few years to support both the organization and its new WayPoint Center initiative. Numerous activities are underway, including last week’s golf tournament, to raise funds and to get the message out to other community leaders.


Can you talk a little bit about the relationship between Valvoline and United Way of the Bluegrass and how that partnership originated?

There is a long history between Valvoline and United Way. I’m not sure how it originated as it started before I joined the company in the late 90s. In recent years, I’ve seen the growing partnership between Valvoline and United Way. It is part of our annual giving campaign where we have the opportunity to talk about United Way’s work in the Bluegrass and the opportunities people have to give here locally or even on an international level. For every dollar donated to the United Way by our employees, Valvoline provides a $.50 matching gift. The annual giving campaign raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to support the local community through many charitable organizations. Last year, our employees gave more to the United Way than any other organization making this partnership with UWBG really important. I’ve had the chance to get involved with the campaign and leadership team and we are already thinking about what’s next.


What do you think is the most special thing about UWBG?

One thing that is very impressive about United Way of the Bluegrass is that it’s celebrating 100 years of serving the community here in central Kentucky. The longevity of the ongoing commitment to helping people and working in the community with other partners to make a difference in people’s lives is unbelievable. United Way of the Bluegrass is always innovating and developing new initiatives, like the WayPoint Centers. They find ways in which the dollars and efforts can be more effective in solving problems and helping families, individuals and kids. The combination of 100 years and still innovating really resonates with me.


It’s similar to Valvoline. To brag on Valvoline, we are 155 years old. We’ve been in business for that long. The only way you stay in business for that long is if you’re making a difference, innovating all the time and changing with the market. That’s what makes Valvoline a great place and a great brand.


What is your favorite project that you have worked on with UWBG?

The WayPoint Centers are my favorite. They’re one of the things that attracted me to get more involved with UWBG recently. I liked the idea of coordinating efforts to help families and individuals in their neighborhoods.


The real insight into the WayPoint Centers is that individuals and families have certain needs. Typically, it is not just one program that can help them, it’s a combination of resources and partners. When you bring them together, you have a bigger impact. That’s what the WayPoint Centers are about. We want to coordinate those efforts to help families in a bigger way. We’re opening three centers this year and more later. I think having a physical presence in the neighborhood can make a big difference. People will trust the people at the WayPoint Center, and they will know they can talk to somebody in person. I think this initiative will make a big difference.


What inspires you to get involved with a charitable organization?

From a personal standpoint, I think my parents gave me a good example of being involved in the community and giving back. I’ve always been involved, even when I was younger, in community efforts. It’s an important part of my life. Part of it is the personal commitment of making a difference, helping those who are less fortunate in the community and being a part of the community.


Here in Lexington, there are so many opportunities to get involved in the community. You get the chance to cross paths with community leaders multiple times throughout the year. Coming together, we can make a difference. You can’t help but want to be a part of it. That’s what guides my family and where we get involved. It’s the people we meet along the way.


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?

There has been a lot of positive change and renewed energy with United Way of the Bluegrass through Timothy Johnson’s leadership and some of the great team members he’s recruited. The first thing to do if you’re new and wanting to join UWBG is to get to know those leaders and learn from them. You should also get excited about some of these new initiatives like the WayPoint Centers.


Fun Questions:

If you were trying to convince someone to move to the Bluegrass area, how would you convince them?

It’s easy. I would start by talking about the great people. People are super friendly here. It’s a fun place to live. You get to know people really well because of their friendliness.


There’s also a lot here in Lexington for a small city. We’ve got all that UK brings and the culture that comes with performances and sports. We love our basketball here.


Then we have Keeneland and the beautiful horse farms that surround us. You have Red River Gorge, amazing hiking just an hour away. There’s a lot to do here and it’s just the right size.


What is your favorite place in the Bluegrass?

My back yard, hanging out on the back deck with family and friends. It means I’m relaxed and not working.


What is your favorite local restaurant in the Bluegrass area?

If I’m going out for a nice, special occasion, I’d say Coles is the place to go. It’s an easy walk from my house. If I’m wanting something more casual, I like to drive up to Wallace Station for a great burger or sandwich on the back deck. Dessert means going to Graeter's for ice cream. It’s the best ice cream in the world.


Thank you for being such a strong part of UWBG, Sam! We appreciate you and all that you've done.


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 liveunited@uwbg.org to share your nomination!

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