Rachel Colker

Rachel Colker shares how the pandemic makes us more aware of our values

Rachel Colker is a life-long Pittsburgher who has had a diverse career, as a historian, project management consultant, currently running her own business, and as a leader within her family’s business, Colker Janitorial Supplies. Rachel is married with three grown children—and while recently an empty-nester, the Coronavirus pandemic has brought everyone home again.

As life changed dramatically in March of this year, Rachel had to turn more of her attention to the family business which is supplying wholesale janitorial products to front-line workers sanitizing and cleaning public and private spaces. “As an essential business, we’ve been helping folks on the front line, but it’s been really difficult because of supply chain issues. We’ve always been about customer service, but somehow now it is even more paramount. We’ll do anything we can to help our customers can get through this time. We’re all in this together.”

Before her involvement with Women’s Leadership Council (WLC), Rachel had the opportunity to work with United Way during her tenure at Film Pittsburgh, host to an annual film festival called ReelAbilities. ReelAbilities presents award-winning films that promote awareness and appreciation of the lives, stories, and artistic expressions of individuals with disabilities. United Way is a leading sponsor of this event which also includes speaker panels and art exhibits. “This event introduced me to the work of UnitedWay. I hadn’t had much interaction with the disability community and I was struck by their incredible work. Their dedication to empowering, people with disabilities—the incredible support and advocacy work that they do—it was really astounding. I opened this door and discovered this whole world of really important, impactful work that is United Way. They are like a quiet engine that’s humming in the background of everything. It’s just so powerful.”

And while United Way has always been there, she points out that this pandemic makes us realize even more how critical it is to support our diverse community. “It has exposed all of our vulnerable points and it has made so many people realize who the truly essential workers are… and it’s not lost that many of those essential workers are often those who are living paycheck to paycheck in unstable conditions.”

“Now more than ever, we know that everyone needs to be safe, especially people working humbly on the frontline, whether that’s janitors or healthcare workers. They need to be protected. Philanthropy needs to recognize that there is this vulnerable population in our workforce and the support services need to be stronger than ever.” Rachel encourages all of her WLC colleagues to step up and give right now so that we can shore up the foundation of our workers and the community at large. “Whatever you can give will help ease the suffering and fallout of this. That’s the very reason we are all here as WLC members.”

 To lend your financial support to those who have been hurt during the pandemic, please visit doyouliveunited.org/ebn/

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 County or Sherrie Dunlap Gallagher at sherrie.dunlapgallagher@unitedwayswpa.org in Butler County.