Stacy (left) and Tami (right) at the 2019 WLC Kickoff event.

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Stacy Juchno and Tami Minnier

COVID’s dark cloud can’t shade the friendship and support found within WLC

If there is one constant about United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council (WLC), it’s that women are strong. Women come together to share their strength with other women who need to find a bit of their own during difficult times. Layer on a pandemic and surprisingly, or perhaps not… women carry on. Philanthropy, outreach, volunteerism and down-to-earth kindness have been a consistent foundation for United Way’s WLC over the past year, and while in-person events may have stopped, nothing much else did. That is due, in great part, to the inspiring leadership of WLC Co-Chairs Stacy Juchno and Tami Minnier. Stacy is General Auditor at PNC Financial Services, and Tami is the Chief Quality Officer for UPMC. Their two-year service ends this August, and both look back on their tenure with positivity and appreciation, despite all of the challenges.

Stacy recalled the energy of her first event as co-chair in August of 2019. Elizabeth Smart was the guest speaker and captivated the nearly 1,000 people who turned out that day. “The United Way leadership that we had with Bobbi coming in, and the momentum seeing all these women wanting to make a difference really lifted me.” However, in March of 2020, the harsh reality set in when the WLC wine event was first postponed then canceled, as eventually, all other events were. Tami, Stacy, and the rest of the WLC leadership team regrouped. “We knew we had to find a way to get these very powerful, passionate women together to make a difference,” says Stacy.

The team pivoted and made the events virtual. Tami and Stacy believe that the turn-outs to these Zoom events were stronger than they would have been in person because there were more time options to participate virtually. “It’s been amazing to watch as ours, and everyone’s lives turned upside down and yet being upside down, our hearts were still right-side-up ready to reach out and help others,” says Tami.

COVID created new opportunities for engagement during campaign time. “When we kicked off our campaign at PNC, we did three virtual events, on three different days, at three different times in an attempt to accommodate everyone. Each one focused on a different beneficiary—helping families thrive, seniors and children. And the really cool thing is that we had a lot of people go to two and even all three of the sessions. So our employees learned more about United Way and opportunities to join WLC. Surprisingly, we reached a larger audience than we ever could have done if we held an in-person event—again just because of more scheduling opportunities,” says Stacy. The experience at UPMC was similar. “Without the opportunity for our traditional big campaign event, we really thought the engagement would be less. But in our organization, we were able to connect with more women this year,” says Tami.

The co-chairs’ continued efforts in this new world appear, so far, to have maintained fundraising levels within WLC. “Frankly, engagement and donations have remained strong, despite the challenges introduced by the pandemic. Women naturally have this affinity to one another and relish the opportunities to come together, and of course, give. Women’s Leadership Council programming not only serves to help our community, it also creates that avenue of coming together, pandemic or no pandemic. I would have never met Stacy if we hadn’t been a part of this. So we’ve continued to form friendships, provide mutual support, all while helping vulnerable women in our community,” says Tami.

As of this year, WLC is more than 2,000 women strong. Stacy hopes that all WLC members will think of themselves as ambassadors so this number will continue to climb. “Remember, all of a sudden you have a connection with 2,000 women. And yes, it comes with wanting to join and write a check to help other women going through very difficult challenges—women facing illness, divorce, loss of jobs, loss of housing. We’re here for them too. It’s a boundless community of women. Just think about all the impact—and all the good—that has come out of it. I encourage WLC members to spread the message!”

WLC is celebrating 20 years in the region this fall. United Way thanks Stacy and Tami for their leadership and all the women that have come before them. We remain united and strong.

To learn more about United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council, contact Lynne Popash at lynne.popash@unitedwayswpa.org in Allegheny County or Terri Dominick at Terri.Dominick@unitedwayswpa.org in Westmoreland & Fayette County or Sherrie Dunlap Gallagher at sherrie.dunlapgallagher@unitedwayswpa.org in Butler & Armstrong County.