How a Fire Reignited a Passion for Giving

“If you want to make a difference, join the many.”

Debbie Graver has been a member of United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) since the group’s inception, but it wasn’t until she lost her home to an accidental fire that she truly understood the impact of WLC’s work.

“My children had been sleeping, my husband was out of town and a firefighter asked if I had someone to call.” Luckily, Debbie did have someone to call but the fire was her ‘aha’ moment. Debbie and her husband had homeowners insurance and savings to get them through, but she left thinking about those who experience crises without a safety net.

The WLC’s goal has always been to serve women in crisis, a mission Debbie supports whole-heartedly. Recognizing that she so easily could have been someone in need of help from United Way’s United for Women initiative, Debbie felt a renewed sense of conviction for the work.

“Not everyone has a village. And it does take a village to raise a family and be successful,” Debbie explained. “I’m grateful to have the opportunity to give back and be that village for women in need.”

Debbie and her husband, Matt, enjoy giving back together. They both volunteered at last year’s Build-A-Bike event where Matt’s cycling expertise came in handy. She recalls the sheer joy on the kids’ faces as they climbed on their bikes for the first time. “When you give of your time, money, or self, you get back so much more than you give,” Debbie said.

As part of the WLC’s TOGETHER Leading initiative, Debbie is sponsoring a young professional, so she can experience all the WLC and United Way’s Bridges Society have to offer.

“Women have a special relationship,” Debbie shared. “Being part of the WLC, there’s always someone who can lend a hand or lead you. Women intrinsically want to help other women and that’s what makes the WLC so successful.”

To learn more about United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council, contact Lynne Popash at in Allegheny County and Alyssa Cholodofsky at in Westmoreland County.