The Women’s Leadership Council of Westchester and Putnam
Giving is an incredibly fulfilling experience. The knowledge that the time and financial resources donated enable people to better their lives makes it even more powerful. The United Way of Westchester and Putnam Women’s Leadership Council provides an exciting new way for those looking to contribute.
Naomi Adler, President and CEO of the United Way of Westchester and Putnam, reflects on the process which led to the genesis of the WLC. She recalls a discussion during United Way’s 50th anniversary in 2012 in which it was decided to “launch some new initiatives to tell people about United Way.” Affinity groups are identified as the best vehicle to achieve this goal. Adler notes that the majority of contributors in the philanthropic arena are women; women, she notes, prefer giving in groups with other women. When the recipients of such generosity are women and children, the level of engagement grows significantly.
During the formation of the WLC, member and Chappaqua resident Alyzza Ozer, Senior Vice President of Resource Development and Community Engagement at United Way of Westchester and Putnam, recalls the “analysis to determine which niche wasn’t being addressed.”
“Teach me to Fish” and “Smartstart”
The following statistic plays a major role in the selection of the WLC’s focus: Forty-five percent of single mothers in Westchester with children under the age of five are living below the poverty level–$23,000 a year for a household of four people on a nationwide basis. Two programs are designed and implemented by WLC: Teach me to Fish, for job training and Smartstart, for literacy development among at-risk elementary school children.
Last year, over 800 people received job training through Teach me to Fish. Its effectiveness is evident in this number: 70, the percentage of those who located work in the first year after completion of the program. Adler highlights another aspect which is greatly appreciated by members: “Very often, people give to philanthropies and they don’t get to experience who they help. This is giving something very specific where they’re helping people right around the corner.”
Volunteer participation in both programs is key. In Teach me to Fish, members choose from a variety of roles. Some serve as mentors while others offer the opportunity to practice interview skills. In Smartstart, the reading buddy project pairs volunteers with at-risk elementary school students. Volunteers work with students on a weekly basis or as often as their schedule permits. In the spring a mentoring program will be held for those interested in Teach me to Fish.
Ozer points to the appeal of WLC for those looking to contribute: ”It’s not just writing out a check. Women want to be involved in what they’re nurturing. They like to donate their time and energy and be advised on the returns they’re getting.” WLC volunteer opportunities are plentiful and quarterly updates are sent to all members.
Enthusiasm reigns among the members of the WLC. This incredibly talented group includes stay-at-home moms as well as those working outside the home. Randi Brosterman, a principal with Deloitte Consulting, has expanded her involvement with the United Way of Northern Westchester to include the WLC and appreciates the dedication of the members. “It’s a very energetic group, passionate about giving and giving back,” she observes.
There are many success stories attributable to the skills imparted in Teach Me to Fish. Johanna Cotto, a mother currently caring for her child who has Type 1 diabetes, enrolls in the program to develop her expertise in order to secure a position as a home health care aide. “If I had gone to a college to try to take a training this way and I had to pay tuition, it would’ve definitely been a problem because I would not have been able to pay for it,” says Cotto. Information on accessing the services offered by WLC is available by calling the 2-1-1 helpline.
To become a member of WLC, contact Ozer at 914-667-9700 x725, or type uwwp.org and click on “join.”