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United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley creates Women's Leadership Council

The United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley's Women's Leadership Council raises community awareness of the impact women have in helping build a stronger and healthier community. Women are invited to get involved in meaningful philanthropic efforts while enjoying business and social networking opportunities.

This is the inaugural year for the Chattahoochee Valley's group but other United Ways who have developed an affinity group of female leadership donors have experienced substantial growth in their overall campaign while increasing the overall impact in their communities through giving, volunteering and advocating.

The United Way supports 28 agencies providing 53 programs in Chattahoochee, Harris, Marion, Muscogee, Stewart, Talbot and Taylor counties in Georgia and Russell County in Alabama. Among those agencies are the Crisis Center of Russell County, Stewart Community Home, Feeding the Valley, Hope Harbour and The Salvation Army. Learn more at http://www.unitedwayofthecv.org.

Here three women share their reasons for being involved in the program.

Audrey Hollingsworth

Job: Group Executive, Chief HR Officer at Synovus

Volunteer service: United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley and St Francis Hospital Board of Directors

Family: Selvin Hollingsworth, Spouse; Taylor (daughter, 19) and Sydney (daughter, 15)

Background: Grew up in Columbus and graduated Carver High School. Undergraduate Degree (BSEd) from the University of Georgia and Masters Degree (MSM) from Troy State University.

Just for fun: Hobbies include reading and watching "Criminal Minds" marathons with the family on Friday nights.

Why do you choose to give to United Way? United Way serves 28 different agencies and ultimately half of the lives of people in our community are touched by United Way. As a member of the United Way Board, I've seen firsthand the efficiency with which the organization operates and the care taken with community donations. I also see the individual impact on the community. When you know that a mother or a child was able to live a healthier, happier life because of UW funding, everyone benefits.

What do you want her readers to know about United Way? United Way applies a fair, objective, volunteer-led approach to the allocation of funds to agency programming. The decisions involve a broader group of community volunteers that extends beyond UW Leadership and Board Leadership.

What do you consider to be the biggest challenges facing our community? Transitions. After attending our first Women's Committee meeting and discussing ideas for various community projects, the theme that resonated for me was around "transitions" for women. Whether women were transitioning from government assistance to self-supporting programs, old jobs to new career opportunities, non-working conditions to fully employed situations. There was a tremendous need to provide transitional support through clothing, undergarments, training, etc.

What do you love about our community? The giving and caring spirit that exists among the folks in our community. I doubt you'll find a community our size that is so willing to give a helping hand to someone in need. The support is unique.

How do you find balance in your life when juggling your work and family duties? This is hard and the approach changes based on various life stages. I'm currently in a new life stage of my own. My youngest daughter plays golf in high school and my oldest daughter runs track for UGA. We are trying to re-balance our routine to incorporate travel/trips to college track meets and local golf matches all while managing a demanding career schedule. The routine that worked last year, doesn't seem to apply this year. You have to be diligent and committed to finding the balance. You also must routinely re-evaluate your priorities and give yourself permission to make mistakes. Balancing is not easy and finding time for yourself is the most important priority yet the hardest to fulfill.

Helen H. Johnson

Job: Group Vice President of Community Development, CB&T

Volunteer Service: service on the Boards of Goodwill, The Springer Theater, the Department of Labor, The Girls Club, Open Door Community House, House of Heroes, the Auburn University School of Business and the CSU School of Education Advisory Board.

Family: B.R. Johnson, two grown children, Courtney Ellis and Clarke Johnson, 2 grandchildren, Avery Ellis (7) and Steven Ellis (2).

Background: a native of Columbus, GA; graduated from Columbus High School ,an undergraduate degree from Auburn University (B.S.) and a graduate degree in Counseling from Georgia State University.

Just for fun: In my free time I enjoy painting, pilates, and "playing" with my grandchildren.

Why do you choose to give to United Way? I believe in supporting those in need.

What do you want Her readers to know about United Way? I feel secure that the money I give to United Way will be distributed to local programs in a fair manner. I have great faith in the United Way process of allocation of local funds and holding the programs accountable.

What do you consider to be the biggest challenge facing our community? The greatest challenge we must face is providing tools and resources to move those who live in poverty and homelessness out of these situations. Many programs and entities within the United Way structure provide support and solutions for those living in poverty. Continuing to focus on quality education in our community is another important challenge for our area and probably the foundation for long term decrease in poverty.

What do you love about our community? I love the Diversity... in our population, our region, our neighborhoods and our lifestyles. I also love the diversity and strength in our schools, our churches, arts organizations, the business community, and local athletic opportunities. Perhaps what I love the most about our community is the strong sense of warmth among our citizens and the atmosphere of collaboration and support for one another.

Dorenda Weaver

Job: Executive Vice President and Chief Accounting Officer for TSYS. As a TSYS team member for 27 years, she's responsible for financial management, accounting, taxes, reporting, analysis and planning for TSYS and its subsidiaries worldwide.

Volunteer service: Work with Columbus State University's Tower Society, Cougar Club, and Alumni Association. Serve on the United Way Board, serving on the Executive Committee and chairing the United Way Women's Leadership Council. Serve on the West Central Georgia board of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the board of the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame. Active member at St. Mark United Methodist Church.

Family: Lamar and I have a grown daughter, Jessica, and a younger daughter, Sydney, who is 17. We have also recently become the happy grandparents of a handsome little boy named Peyton.

Background: I was raised in Phenix City, graduating from Central High class of 1981. I attended Columbus State University receiving degrees in computer science and accounting. I also hold a Masters in Personnel Management from Troy State University, am a Certified Public Accountant and a graduate of the ABA National School of Bank Card Management.

Just for fun: In college, I was an All-American in both Academics and Athletics, and I'm a member of the CSU Sports Hall of Fame, Now I love watching my daughter, Sydney, play the sports she enjoys, mainly softball, basketball, and golf.

Why do you choose to give to United Way? There are so many different needs in our community and United Way does a wonderful job of providing for those through the programs they support. The service areas they focus on (basic needs, education, income and health) all work together to make our community much stronger. United Way provides not only help to people in need but solutions for the problems people face in our community.

What do you want Her readers to know about United Way? My sister and I grew up going to the Girls Club and loved it! We had no idea back then that United Way was making a difference in our lives... we were just having a great time in a safe environment while our parents were at work. And now that I've had the opportunity to serve on the Board of Directors for United Way I've learned even more about United Way's role in the community. I think there are so many people who benefit from United Way who may not even realize they have been touched by a United Way service. It's such a also such a volunteer-driven organization and I have seen the passion and commitment of my fellow United Way volunteers. It truly is encouraging to see how many people care about the well-being of our community.

What do you consider to be the biggest challenges facing our community? The need for strengthening families continues to be a challenge. There are a number of obstacles many families in our community must overcome everyday and whether that is providing food for their children or making sure their child's education is a priority, it is essential for families to overcome these obstacles in order for our community to continue to be successful. What we are aiming to accomplish with our Women's Leadership Initiative is to reach out to those women in our community who want to make a difference and give them a means to do that.

What do you love about our community? Our community always finds a way to pull together. The Chattahoochee Valley area is large both geographically and in population, but to me it still has the feel of a smaller, close knit community where people are still willing to reach out and help one another.

How do you find balance in your life when juggling your work and family duties? It can be very difficult to find that balance and it is always a work in progress. I think you simply need to prioritize. You will always find a way to put the things that are most important to you ahead of everything else.

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