United Way Women’s Leadership Council grant committee members Eleanor Gleeson, left, and Trinette Lindley, right, present a $10,000 cheque to Janet Raddatz for the A.L.L. for Kids Program.

The United Way Women’s Leadership Council recently held its first event of 2013 — a “Lunch and Learn” featuring a special presentation by WLC member Sandra Maltby-Mills on the subject of stress.

At this gathering, 40 existing and new members were introduced to the work of the WLC.

The idea for a local Women’s Leadership Council began with my attendance at a National United Way Conference in B.C. in May of 2007.

There, as is customary at such events, I chose specific workshops to attend and subsequently picked up a great idea to bring home to Chatham-Kent. Having been aware, for some time, that there were several needs in our community that were not currently being met, I was intrigued by the workshop description that focused on an opportunity to provide flexible funding for vulnerable women and their children.

The session was delivered by my counterpart at the United Way in Orange County, Calif. – one of approximately 130 United Ways in the U.S. (out of a total of 1,300) with a Women’s Leadership Council. The speaker noted that each locally autonomous WLC decided, on its own, what programs and services it wished to support and at what specific contribution level it wished to establish its membership.

Keen to explore the formation of a local WLC when I returned home from the conference, I contacted seven women donors who were currently giving at the Gold leadership level ($1,000 or more) and invited them to a meeting in order to share the concept. It was an easy sell. By the end of the meeting, the eight women in attendance committed to forming a local WLC — one of the first in Canada.

In September of 2007, as part of the fall United Way campaign, we launched our local Women’s Leadership Council with eight charter members. Now, a little over five years later, we have a membership of 97 women who contribute a minimum of $1,000 to United Way and support — through time, talent and/or treasure – the initiatives undertaken by the WLC.

In each of the last two years, as the initiative has grown, over $60,000 has been invested to make a positive difference in the lives of local women and their children.

Through the various categories of financial support — cultural activities, education, health and well-being, leadership development, women in situational poverty and the WLC opportunity fund, over 1,000 local women and their children have benefited to date from subsidies.

While space does not permit me to share all of the stories of lives changed, I’m happy to share three personal testimonials from women who have benefited from WLC contributions.

From a local senior — “Thank you to you and the WLC for your financial assistance regarding my new power wheelchair. It is very comfortable and supports my body very well. Thanks for your generosity and caring.”

From a woman struggling to make ends meet — “Thank you for being there for me in my time of need. You certainly helped my Christmas Season be more joyful!”

And from a young girl who benefited from a subsidy to attend St. Vincent de Paul Camp — “Thank you so much for the chance to experience so many life lessons this summer at SVDP. This gave me the chance to better myself. Thank you for believing in me and helping me to strive for success.”

The United Way Women’s Leadership Council is proud to be one of the Gold Exhibitors and a presenter at THE ULTIMATE ME DAY Women’s Conference — scheduled for Saturday, April 20 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the John D. Bradley Convention Centre. Billed as “A Spring Fling”, the event is being hosted by four dynamic women (Sandra Maltby-Mills, Susan Bechard, Jill Pickford and Lisa Fox Bail) who have created the group Wealth, Wisdom and Well-Being in Chatham-Kent.

Those wishing to learn more about this upcoming event are encouraged to go towww.wealthwisdomandwell-beinginchathamkent.com

United Way Women’s Leadership Council grant committee members Eleanor Gleeson, left, and Trinette Lindley, right, present a $10,000 cheque to Janet Raddatz for the A.L.L. for Kids Program.