Corporate philanthropy inspires hope and change in a community

United Way was founded by a small group of volunteers who were determined to make a positive impact in the community through collective giving, and over 100 years later, that same spirit of philanthropy and selflessness continues to drive the success of our organization. Neighbors helping neighbors is a powerful principle for which to set a community standard. Our St. Louis community has embraced this standard and that is why United Way is able to help 1 million people across our region every year. Our corporate partners are an important part of our efforts in the community. Their willingness to generously give to United Way with the intention of making a meaningful difference in someone’s life will be a part of our drive towards making our next 100 years just as special as our first. That is why we are proud to have Marty Lyons, President and CEO of longtime United Way corporate partner, Ameren, serve as United Way’s 2023 campaign chair. We spoke with Marty about the importance of corporate philanthropy and the importance of United Way having our community’s support as we continue in our mission to help people live their best possible lives.

United Way’s annual campaign runs from now until November, as campaign chair, what do you look forward to the most during this campaign?

I look forward to helping our neighbors in need. At Ameren, our mission is to power the quality of life in the communities we serve, and our operating territory is in the Eastern half of Missouri, and primarily in the Southern two thirds of Illinois. There’s great overlap with the communities United Way of Greater St. Louis serves with our customer base. So, what I look forward to with United Way is helping to raise funds, but also awareness for the great work that United Way does and all of these communities that they help that we also serve with electricity. These are our neighbors, for Ameren, they’re our customers, so I look forward to us both helping people in the community.

Ameren has generously supported United Way since 1996, what do you think inspires Ameren’s longstanding support for United Way?

With our mission of powering the quality of life in the communities we serve; I think there’s no better partner than United Way in terms of improving the quality of life for those most vulnerable and those who are most in need in our community. One of the things we look to do is make sure that we have a thriving community because if our communities are thriving, Ameren will be thriving. As a result, we want to help those in need get back on their feet and to thrive and that is what I see United Way doing.

When you have men, women, families, and veterans in need, the agencies that United Way supports provides a safety net that allows these individuals and families to get on their feet and sustain themselves. That’s what I mean when I say, “Thriving”, not just getting past an immediate issue, but getting them back on a path to sustainability and success. United Way does it like nobody else because they work with 160 agencies that can stitch together the assistance needed to provide that safety net for our neighbors.

How important is corporate philanthropy to the stability of the St. Louis region?

As campaign chair, I’ve had the opportunity to visit with multiple businesses and business leaders, and I can tell you that the spirit of caring is pervasive throughout the entire community. That’s why you see such overwhelming support for United Way every year from large and small businesses, and from individuals across our region. It’s an incredibly inspiring thing to witness and be a part of. It just goes to show you that everyone believes that philanthropy is important, and helping and caring for those in need is a responsibility that we have.

How did you first find out about United Way and what made you want to get involved and support us?

In a previous career, I had the opportunity to audit United Way, and I got to see up close and personally how thrifty United Way was and how the dollars that people contributed to United Way really flowed through the nonprofits United Way supports. I saw the passion amongst folks at United Way for making sure that the money went to the people in need and that has just grown over time.

Also, I came to realize that so many of our Ameren co-workers have actually been beneficiaries of the services of nonprofits that United Way supports. That’s unbelievably moving when you know that friends and colleagues, unbeknownst to you, were the recipients of support from United Way who helped them and their families through times of need. It underscores that you really are helping neighbors and your friends with your contributions.

What would you say to someone who may be thinking about donating to United Way, but may not be sure if their contribution really makes a difference?

I would tell people to give any amount that you can because it really does make a difference in our communities. It truly helps your friends and your neighbors even if you don’t realize it, and it’s something you can really feel good about. So, start by donating any amount that is comfortable for you, even if it’s seemingly small.

You can also get involved by making use of opportunities to volunteer. United Way operates one of the largest Volunteer Centers in our community, and by getting involved you see how much United Way impacts the community and the nonprofits they support. Hopefully, over time you’ll increase your contributions as you see how important it is and the impact that it has.

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Rodney Humphries
Rodney Humphries