More than 700 women unite at the annual Women Make a Difference luncheon

United Way of Greenville County celebrated the charitable impact of Greenville County women Thursday at United Way Women’s Leadership’s “The Year of the Woman” Women Make a Difference luncheon.

Each year, hundreds of women from across the community gather to recognize the group’s philanthropic efforts, both through financial contributions and volunteerism in Greenville County.

Twenty years ago, a group of 208 founding members launched Women’s Leadership. Today, more than 1,800 women make up the Women’s Leadership umbrella, which also includes Women Attorneys, Women in Banking, Women in Healthcare, Women in Real Estate, and Women in Science & Engineering.

Women’s Leadership Chair Cathy Hendrix said members pledged more than $2.6 million last year in support United Way of Greenville County, and 2018 donations are expected to exceed that number.

“Together, we have shown what a diverse group of people and organizations can do in our community,” said Hendrix. “May we never forget all that can be accomplished and the difference that can be made for others when women stand united.”

The event showcased Women’s Leadership’s direct impact in the community through the “Wear One, Bring One” project, volunteer efforts with United Way afterschool programs and OnTrack Greenville, and Women’s Leadership’s own successful “Jobs to Careers – Women Helping Women” scholarship program.

Members developed the scholarship and mentoring program in 2010 to address the need for greater financial stability for Greenville County women and their families, and to help remove some of the barriers that can prevent women from realizing their career goals.

The scholarship assists women in the community looking to transition from paycheck-to-paycheck jobs to more stable, long-term careers. Jobs to Careers offers financial support for education and job training, as well as a stipend for transportation and childcare. So far, the program has graduated more than 40 women in fields ranging from computer technology and business to accounting, healthcare and advanced manufacturing.

The group also used the event to help women facing crises through its “Wear One, Bring One” project. Luncheon attendees brought hundreds of new undergarments to be donated to women served by the Safe Harbor domestic violence shelter—one of 69 United Way partner agencies. To date, the project has collected more than 8,000 undergarments from the annual luncheons.

“When a woman leaves her home in a moment of crisis, there is often no time to pack, and frequently she leaves with only the clothes on her back,” said United Way of Greenville County Campaign Chair Diana Watson. “But having these personal items waiting for her at the shelter tells her that she is safe and she is part of a community that will support her through her toughest times.”

The goal of Women’s Leadership is to recognize women’s philanthropic efforts in the community and to develop leadership opportunities in civic and nonprofit organizations for professional women.

“We know that women in South Carolina—and right here in Greenville County—are more likely to live in poverty than men,” said United Way of Greenville County President and CEO Meghan Barp. “This community of informed, involved and invested women is working with United Way to change that.”

To become a member, or for more information on United Way Women’s Leadership and its programs, click here or call 864.467.3551.