Holiday Volunteering with YLS

kelly hall holiday party 2013

On Saturday, December 14th, United Way’s Young Leaders Society (YLS) gathered to volunteer at the annual Kelly Hall YMCA Holiday Party. The holiday party is an exciting time for the Humboldt Park neighborhood, affording area residents an opportunity to celebrate the holidays in a way they would not be able to do without help from the YMCA.

Through United Way, YLS was asked to help make this a memorable experience for the second consecutive year. Morning volunteers prepped for the big day by organizing the large amount of toy donations, as well as clothing for adults and children. Stockings were stuffed with candy and toys, and books organized by age group. Other volunteers set up the dining hall and helped prepare the festive meal which was served in the afternoon. In another room, arts and crafts stations were put together.

After the Morning Prayer service ended, children and their families came into the donation room (which had been visited by a very generous Santa Claus!), and walked around with a helper “Elf” to select their toys, stocking, and clothing items. The children talked excitedly about playing with their new toys as they walked down the line.

United Way helps funds over 20 YMCA Early Childhood Development site programs and works to create structured after-school programs for over 9,000 youth in the city and suburbs. These YMCA programs fall in line with United Way’s Education and Health initiatives. YLS was excited to be a part of another successful holiday event benefiting the Chicago community!

Post submitted on behalf of Heather Cook, Private Bank, YLS Special Event Committee Member

CEO Fireside Chat with Dorri McWhorter

I recently had the privilege of attending a CEO Fireside chat hosted by the United Way Young Leaders Society (YLS) featuring Dorri McWhorter, CEO of YWCA Chicago. It was a unique opportunity for me to meet YLS Premier Members and engage one-on-one with Dorri. I have seen and heard of Dorri through her leadership with the United Way Women’s Leadership Council, so I was especially thrilled to meet her on a more personal level.

We started off the roundtable chat with introductions, and then Dorri jumped right into speaking about her background and her leadership philosophies as the CEO of YWCA. YWCA is a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.

Dorri was a refreshing and insightful speaker from both a business and non-profit perspective. Dorri has always been engaged with community organizations through her involvement on a number of boards. Until recently, we learned that Dorri has been in accounting, finance and business roles throughout her career. She spoke about the ways her background impacts the way she leads at YWCA. Not only did I learn about the abundant services YWCA offers, but I also learned about viewing an organization through a business lens in order to maximize the leverage of resources for community impact.

The concept of social enterprises was a key focal point in the conversation. We learned about the ways in which Dorri’s leadership has impacted the initiatives of YWCA. Social enterprises apply business strategies to maximize improvements in human and environmental well-being, rather than maximizing profits for external shareholders. We learned of new YWCA initiatives and how diversifying revenue streams allows for expanding the organization’s program offerings. I particularly enjoyed hearing about Dorri’s leadership and the social enterprise concept and I am proud to have been a part of the conversation. I walked away with a fresh perspective as a donor and fundraiser.

Post submitted on behalf of Angela Marie Wells, YLS Ambassador, 2012-13 YLS Executive Chair

The Young Leaders Society Commitment to Education

In2Books Blog_Erin

This year, United Way’s Young Leaders Society (YLS) has made on-going volunteerism their top priority. As a result, YLS has partnered with the In2Books program and a United Way partner agency AUSL to make a measurable impact this academic year. In2Books is a digital pen pal volunteer opportunity where each volunteer reads 5 books throughout an academic year with their pen pal and exchange discussion letters through a secure online inbox. Each book represents a different genre and is directly integrated into the class curriculum. YLS has brought this program into two Chicago Public Schools; one is National Teachers Elementary Academy where we have matched fifty-seven YLS volunteers in two fifth-grade classrooms. This particular school is on the Near South Side and serves a population that is over 83% low income. In total, YLS has mobilized 114 volunteers across Chicagoland to mentor 114 students in Chicago Public Schools.

My ePal, Arreon, wants to take after his grandma and work in a hospital someday or become an NBA star. Like any kid, he enjoys watching t.v. and playing games with his family. The first book all YLS volunteers read with their students is from the fiction genre. My student has chosen to read Donuthead by Sue Stauffacher. Donuthead is about a 5th-grade boy who struggles with everyday life for a number of reasons. For starters, his last name, Donuthead, makes him a target for bullies. He also suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and finds it very hard to make friends. This is a very real scenario for many students no matter their income. I am so glad I can help my student talk about bullying in our letters.

Studies have shown that the students who participate in the In2Books program perform higher on standardized tests than students who do no not participate in the program. YLS is doing their part to contribute to the LIVE UNITED 2020 community-impact plan through awareness, volunteerism, and fundraising. You can help us realize this vision by becoming a member, lending a hand to volunteer, or attending our annual Festivus event.

Submitted on behalf of Erin Kilburg, YLS Community Outreach Vice Chair

Join the Young Leaders Society

The Young Leaders Society (YLS) is United Way’s young professional affinity group dedicated to fundraising and advocating for United Way. Complete the form below to learn more about YLS membership, upcoming events, and more!

Young Leaders Society Executive Committee

Executive Chair

Emily Steckel
Vice President, BMO Harris Bank

Executive Vice Chair

Steve Bauer
Director, Cushman Wakefield

Member Development Committee

Andy Christensen – Chair
Director of Business Development
Partners by Design

Mike Opyd – Vice Chair
Real Estate Broker
The Matt Laricy Group

Sara Clancy – New Business Team

Erin Burke
Audit Senior

Matt Eltringham
Associate Wealth Management Advisor
Fifth Third Bank

Tom Jacobs
Cameron Group

Jeff Leets
Credit Operations Analyst
Northern Trust

Trey Page
Corporate Banking Senior Associate

Dhiren Patel
Assistant Vice President
US Bank

Jack Seney
Associate Director
SMG Performance Marketing

Special Events Committee

Danielle Protexter – Chair

Marisa McCabe – Vice Chair
Sales and Merchant Operations

Kara Stubbins
Project Manager
Rush University Medical Center

Community Outreach Committee

Shibo Liang – Chair

Carolyn Brodhay – Vice Chair
Director of Sales
VS Networks

Franci Rueve
Senior Analyst
United Airlines

Communications Committee

Marisa McCabe – Chair
Sales and Merchant Operations


Jackie Cullinan
Senior Tax Analyst

Will Darley
W.S. Darley & Company

Mike Jank
Manager of Development and Partnerships

Erin Kilburg
Career Services Rep
Everest College

Schurz High School: Murals & More!

United Way's YLS volunteers pictured by their freshly painted mural

United Way’s YLS volunteers pictured by their freshly-painted mural

United Way’s Young Leaders Society (YLS) joined forces with Comcast and City Year on Saturday, April 27, 2013 to transform and uplift Carl Schurz High School with painting, landscaping, and construction projects in Chicago’s Irving Park Community. Over 50 YLS members joined forces with 500 other volunteers from across the city. During this massive undertaking, YLS tackled several hallways, painting murals and inspirational quotes a student-run committee selected. They selected image they felt would help fuel  school pride and spirit.

Comcast Cares Day_Blog2

After many hours of careful painting (and only a few spills!) the United Way’s YLS team was able to complete two floors of one of the main stairwells and several other main hallways around the school. The day was full of hard work, but we were able to interact with and learn from many of the other volunteer groups that participated in this special Comcast Cares Day. YLS was proud to be a part of one of the largest single-day volunteer events in the country, and excited to give back to our community by helping transform the third largest public high school in the state.

Like our Facebook page for more photos of the day. If you are interested in volunteering, contact us at  or visit our website to learn more about the United Way Young Leaders Society.

Post submitted on behalf of John Griffin, YLS Volunteer Committee Member.

YLS Member Spotlight: Ieisha Montgomery

YLS Spotlight - Iesha

Ieisha Montgomery (pictured center right), one of the Young Leaders Society’s Premier Members, gives back to her community through more than just  monetary  donations – she also gives her time. Read on to find out her favorite YLS volunteer project, her job analyzing different country risk scenarios and what she has to say to those considering a YLS membership.      

Why did you join YLS, and what is your current role with YLS?
I joined YLS because I believe in United Way’s mission and I am dedicated to be of service to my community. I am currently a YLS Premier Member.

Tell us about that role and what some of your goals are for the remainder of this year?
Being a Premier Member involves committing to donating at least $500 to United Way each year. My goal for the remainder of the year is to participate in a couple more volunteer events.

There are so many good non-profit opportunities. What makes YLS the right option for you?
YLS obligations are flexible and work well with my schedule. Also, due to the reach of United Way, volunteer opportunities are very diverse.

Tell us about a volunteer project you have done with YLS and why these opportunities are such a great way for people to get to know YLS?
I participated in a back-to-school fair at Association House last year. It was a great opportunity to interact with the community and work with children.

What are your favorite things about YLS?
I enjoy the volunteer projects and networking events. Both are excellent opportunities to meet people while making a difference. I also enjoy the Fireside Chats with local CEOs.

What would you say to someone interested in joining YLS?
Do it! Seriously, it is a great opportunity to give back to your community and meet like-minded professionals.

What causes are most meaningful for you to support?
I am very passionate about working with youth. Our young people have so much to offer and they need people to believe in them, guide them, and help them realize their potential. Mentoring has given me some of the most rewarding moments of my life.

Tell us about your day job and what you like about it?
I’m an international economist at the Northern Trust Company and I monitor the risks in 25 countries in Asia-Pacific and Sub-Saharan Africa. I really enjoy analyzing sovereigns and thinking through different country risk scenarios.

Some fun ones:
Favorite TV show? Dogs 101
Favorite book? Tie — “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and “Pride and Prejudice”
Favorite movie? Tie again — “A Bronx Tale” and “Love and Basketball”
What are your iPod favorites? Kendrick Lamar, 2Pac, Justin Timberlake
What are your biggest hobbies? Capoeira and basketball

Produce Day with Young Leaders Society

Produce Day

Despite how ill-prepared I was for the cold, the Libby School Produce Day was a huge success. I made a statement (not a request) to my boss letting him know I would not be coming to work Friday, as my time would be better served at the volunteer event. Surprisingly, he  didn’t  put up a fight and actually told me our company has days allocated for volunteering–something to keep in mind and definitely ask your boss about if you haven’t already.

We had a solid group of volunteers including me, a friend, Young Leaders Society volunteer, Libby School staff, and United Way representatives who went to a food desert in Back of the Yards neighborhood.

The food distribution crew unloaded 8-10 palettes of fresh produce including fruits, vegetables and bread in the parking lot outside the school. They set up the palettes and the carrots towered above us, we were in charge of divvying up the food.
We strong armed the produce out of the sacks and made individual bags for pick up–it was set up like a grocery store. Each family had a wagon or a cart and each could get one-two bags of produce and two loafs of bread.

The biggest challenge was actually ripping open the plastic netting. Only to find out an hour after there was a box cutter brought specifically to ease our task! Better late than never and we made it out without losing any fingers.

We went through 70% of the food before it was nearing the end. At that point, anyone left was able to take as much as they wanted.

There were a handful of bread loaves, but other than that families cleaned the place out. The other volunteers were so wonderful and so grateful for our help; because we were there Libby School staff could teach instead of feeding the neighborhood.

After we completed the school’s staff told us they were probably on the city’s close list this year and that was heart breaking. So many schools on the close list have to overcome a landslide of obstacles–academics are sometimes secondary to feeding the students and their families.

In sum, families were fed, fingers were frozen, fun was had and hearts were warmed. I can’t wait to do it again. This time I’ll be smart enough to dress appropriately so I won’t have to thaw out my feet under the hand dryer. Join United Way’s Young Leaders Society and make a difference by feeding communities who  wouldn’t  otherwise have access to fresh produce!

Blog post submitted on behalf of  YLS Committee Member, Molly Russell.

YLS Volunteers at Kelly Hall YMCA Holiday Party

Kelly Hall YMCA Holiday Party - Group

The Young Leaders Society teamed up with the Kelly Hall YMCA on December 15 to help assist families in need with their annual holiday party.  All the volunteers got to experience the joy of giving during this holiday season.  Our group joined the festivities early so we helped set up.  There were so many gifts and so many volunteers that I heard someone mention “organized chaos” to describe that early phase.  But in no time, and with some assertive leadership, the festivities of the event began.  Families from the neighborhood were escorted through the gymnasium.  Each child in the family could pick one large toy, one small toy, either a backpack or a stocking, and either a coat or gloves and a hat.

My brightest memory came from working at the coat table.  A young boy shyly approached the table at the side of his mom.  We picked out a jacket for him, and I encouraged him to try it on.  It was like he transformed right in front of me.  I could see his newly formed animation, and his eyes illuminated as he smiled at his mom.  We slapped high five, and I could feel the emotion spread throughout my body.  Several other members in our group mentioned how our volunteering experience really touched them, too.  This was the only Christmas that many of these families would have this year.  It felt good to make this holiday season special for them.

Post submitted on behalf of  Russell Vilt, YLS Member.