The heartbeat of our community: WLC celebrates 20 years of impact

By Michele Fabrizi, founding WLC member, former United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania executive committee member and campaign chair

It was 20 years ago (though it feels like yesterday) when Ann McGuinn, Suzy Broadhurst, Sharon Rohr, Susie Johnson and I sat down with a question: “What can we, as women, do for our community?”

At the time, leadership was dominated by men, but we felt that we could tap into the power of women. Historically, women have always been influential supporters of philanthropic initiatives, both nationally and locally. There is something unique about the way women give; their donations come from their hearts as much as their wallets.

Determined to make a difference, and believing women should lead the charge, our next step was to find a partner that would help us make the greatest change. Without a doubt, turning to United Way of Southwestern Pennsylvania was one of the best decisions we could have made. By joining forces with United Way, we knew the dollars we raised would be directed to helping the greatest number of people possible. More than that, we had the confidence that United Way was working with the most impactful agencies in southwestern Pennsylvania.

We knew we had something truly special when the group, officially named United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council (WLC), raised $1 million in our first year. From that point, WLC’s trajectory speaks to what women can achieve when we work together – we can transform lives.

Much has changed in 20 years, but it remains true that women are the heartbeat of our communities. When women are financially secure and in good health, so is our region. When women thrive, so do their families, their businesses and their communities. While the last 19 months have been incredibly difficult across the board, United Way’s PA 211 Southwest helpline reported that three-out-of-four requests for help came from women. This is a powerful reminder. This is your community, this is your home, and these women are your family – your moms, your sisters, your neighbors, your coworkers. And they need you now.

United Way continues to be the best changemaking partner we could have imagined. With the core imperatives of helping the community meet basic needs, move toward financial stability and build success in school and life, United Way is truly wrapping their arms around our most vulnerable community members.

WLC members play a key role in strengthening the region’s safety net and we have an incredible opportunity this year. Together – as a group 2,200 women strong – we have the potential to break the $100 million fundraising mark.

Membership in Women’s Leadership Council comes with the honor of knowing you are truly contributing to the success of our region and helping to create a brighter future for generations to come, but that’s not all members receive. Today, our WLC is the third largest in the nation and has the support of business owners, corporate leaders, attorneys, service workers and more. It has been a joy to watch this dynamic network of impressive, diverse women grow and build connections that are making themselves, and our region, stronger.

Without hesitation, I can say I have the answer to that question Ann, Suzy, Sharon, Susie and I started out with. United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council changes lives.

If you’re interested in learning more about United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council, visit