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 Dr. Serenity Wright, who is the current chair of the Community Impact Task Force, leading the volunteer effort to launch our WayPoint Centers.
What is your role with UWBG?
Before taking on my current role of Chair of the Community Impact Task Force, I’d served on a number of different committees within the community that were connected to UWBG. Everybody was looking for a way to streamline, centralize, and facilitate collaboration. They kept saying, “if only there was just one place where we could help our community truly become more sustainable”.
The biggest thing is that the nature of nonprofit fundraising has changed a lot in the last five to ten years. People want to give to programs and demographics that they are passionate about and feel connected to. For many, it’s no longer desirable to just contribute to a large general pot. In my opinion, the pivot is twofold. The first is to help people understand and see value in where their donations are going. And the second is to more intentionally support our communities. If we’re going to work to create sustainable communities, we have to do it together. The purpose of WayPoint isn’t to create something new, but to bring together the resources that are already available. We want to make sure we are supporting our local organizations in reaching the communities we need while also supporting those in the community who need those resources. By creating the WayPoint centers, we are facilitating that connection.
What does this role include? What would a normal day look like for you?
My main role is to facilitate. We’ve partnered with organizations like the Urban League and Fayette County Public Schools to give them a space to serve in the community. They each have their own buildings, but this is an additional spot where they can reach the community’s needs. They can either be physically present or send materials and resources for us to hand out to anyone who walks in the door.
We also partner with people or organizations like the Paris-Bourbon County YMCA who already have programs happening in their building. Instead of taking over those programs, we enhance and support them by providing supplies and materials or by helping them reach more students. We also plan to include some of the programs within UWBG, like CKEEP tax preparation, that will help people be more financially sustainable.
What do you think is the most special thing about UWBG’s WayPoint program?
My hope is that WayPoint Centers will create access points for people to get the support that they need. The most exhausting thing is to go to a place for help, find out you actually need support or guidance from three other organizations and then have to figure out all these other logistics. I hope that having a centralized location where people can get multiple points of support eases anxieties, facilitates individual and sustainable families and takes away some of the pressure of constantly having to navigate all these different elements just to get the help you need. Sometimes it’s really hard to ask for help, find out how you’re supposed to get that help and then access the resource. Availability and opportunity does not always equal access.
What do you think is the most special thing about UWBG?
They’ve been around a long time, so they know their communities and work intentionally to develop relationships within that community. They are always looking for ways to grow and create more opportunities to serve those communities. Their ultimate goal and genuine intent is to serve and they work hard to do that every day.
In your opinion, what positive change has UWBG made in the Bluegrass over the past 100 years?
They have continued to build sustainable communities, whether it’s through building an organization’s capacity within the community or working directly to make individual people and family units more sustainable. Their most important impact would be lifting up and empowering people within the community at every level.
What’s your favorite place in the Bluegrass?
Even before quarantine, I think I only went to Doodles restaurant.
What’s your favorite thing to do in the Bluegrass?
I love local places like Greyline Station, Julietta Market and Wildcat Willy's in Winchester. I like being able to reinvest back in my community but also have new experiences that teach me something. It’s important to me to learn about the communities I’m supporting and what they are trying to do to build economic development in those spaces.
Thank you for being such a strong part of UWBG, Serenity! 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 email@example.com to share your nomination!