National Volunteer Month Spotlight – Women United

National Volunteer Month Spotlight – Women United

Written by Michaela Darbyshire, Manager of Marketing & Events at United Way of South Hampton Roads

National Volunteer Month takes place annually in the month of April. Throughout the month, volunteers are celebrated for their community achievements, and encouraged to lead the charge for volunteer efforts.

United Way of South Hampton Roads is kicking off National Volunteer Month by recognizing a few of the strong, innovative, and selfless group of 800 powerful women leaders in our local community – Women United.

Over the past year, 365 Women United members have volunteered in our events, equating to more than 1,800 hours of volunteering.

We asked a few Women United members why they volunteer. Here’s what they had to say:

Jennifer Grant – Senior Vice President & Director of Business Operations and Risk Management – TowneBank

For Jennifer, volunteering with United Way is incredibly meaningful and personal. “Growing up, I faced challenges that underscored the importance of community support and resilience,” Jennifer said. “Spending my time with this organization feels like an extension of my own story – a chance to be the support for someone else navigating tough times.”

“A shared commitment to empowering women and families in Hampton Roads shines through the programs offered through the Women United endowment,” Jennifer said. Volunteering with Women United allows Jennifer the chance to contribute to meaningful causes while empowering her to be an advocate for positive change in her local community.

Lauren Henry – Portfolio Manager, Transformation Office – Sentara Health

Lauren spent her high school years in Virginia Beach but moved away after college. “When I found out I was pregnant with my daughter, Ellie, I decided to move back to Hampton Roads to be closer to my family,” Lauren said. “I wanted her to be near her grandparents – and selfishly, I wanted the free childcare that comes with having family nearby!”

“Ellie’s almost nine now, and we live in Norfolk, a city we love,” Lauren said. “We’re so grateful to have found a strong community here in our family, friends and school – but we recognize how fortunate we are to have that support system in place.”

Lauren notes that there are many folks in the Hampton Roads community that don’t have family or friends able to help them in times of need. “There are so many people to whom just a little bit of support could go such a long way and that is why we volunteer our time and money with United Way.

Lauren and her daughter, Ellie, have volunteered at a few Women United events over the past two years. “One of our favorites was the Pie It Forward event this past November,” Lauren said. “Every kid – young and old – should know the joy of the holidays, and what better way to spread joy than with pie!”

Adrienne Gregory – Women United Member

“My degree is in Social Work/Welfare, and I worked for Social Services for 32 years! I love people, service, giving, and blessing others with my knowledge, skills, experience, time; and most importantly, LOVE.”

Shavon R. Johnson – Vice President of Brokerage – Towne Benefits

 “I love volunteering with United Way’s Women United because I am passionate about helping and uplifting women and children,” Shavon said. “Women are a force when they come together, and what better way is it than to come together to help our community through service.”

Shavon is a firm believer that circumstances can change.

“I’m doing what I’d want someone to reciprocate… A lot is going on in the world today, so if I’m able to take time out of my schedule to alleviate struggle and make an impact, I’m all for it,” Shavon said. “The feeling I have after each volunteering event is one of pure fulfillment and joy.”

Meagan Parker – Vice President & Private Banking Officer – TowneBank

“Women United allowed me to connect with like-minded individuals who are passionate about making a positive impact in our community. I also appreciate the focus on empowering women and supporting important causes that directly benefit those in need.”

Meagan also notes that being a part of Women United is invaluable, especially because of the networking opportunities, and personal growth of her skills through utilizing her resources, that it has led to.

 “It’s a plus that so many Towne family members are ready to roll up their sleeves for these days of service,” Meagan said. “The sense of fulfillment and satisfaction that I get from giving back is truly rewarding.”

Megan Buchholz – Community Impact Director, Maternal Health – American Heart Association

“Sharing my time in addition to my resources is a hands-on way of giving back to my community,” Megan said. “I love the camaraderie I’ve found by volunteering with Women United, and United Way. I find so much joy in working alongside like-minded women.”

Brittany Abbott – Deputy Director of Finance, City of Hampton

“During my childhood, both of my parents battled addiction, limiting their ability to be great parents,” Brittany said. “My village (grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, etc.) raised me. My success today is largely attributed to their investment in me.”  

Volunteering with Women United allows Brittany to support the villages that are investing in the at-risk youth, adults struggling with addiction, and those living in poverty.

“A great bonus is working side-by-side with like-minded women, meeting great people, and developing new friendships.”

Sarah R. Welch – Process Design Executive – Bank of America

“Volunteering has been important my whole life… The inspiration started early, fueled by the model my parents set about community involvement in the small town in which I was raised,” Sarah said. “I was taught that volunteering is what you do, and my parents led by example – my mother specifically was very involved in community volunteering while working outside the home.”

Later in life, Sarah’s passion for volunteering has been sustained by her employer, Bank of America, as they embrace their core value of local community engagement. Through Women United, Sarah has been able to participate in the Stone Soup event (which fed 500 families this year), the Day of Caring, and Holiday Extravaganza – Adopt a Family.

“I want to thank the Women United program for being such an inspiration to so many,” Sarah said. “Giving back allows me to provide brightness for others and receive brightness in return.”

We are continuously grateful for the time, skills, and energy that Women United volunteers give to our organization. Since their inception in 2002, this group has grown astronomically, with last year’s data reflecting $11.5M in endowment, and $2.3M raised.

Thank you, Women United, for leading the charge, and inspiring change in our community.