United Way’s office is closed Tuesday, Jan. 16 due to inclement weather

United Way of the Mid-South’s office is closed today due to inclement weather and hazardous driving conditions. Exercise caution if traveling and please check in with elderly or vulnerable neighbors/relatives who may be in need. Thank you!

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Welcome, Cecelia Johnson-Powell


United Way of the Mid-South is pleased to announce Cecelia Johnson-Powell as its Driving The Dream Program Director, after an extensive search for the newly created leadership position. Johnson-Powell will lead our Driving the Dream (DTD) initiative which creates, facilitates and monitors an accountable system of care, comprised of DTD Network Partner agencies, a client-centered approach, multi-domain assessment tools and a shared data platform. The DTD initiative is a collaboration across a wide array of programs and services, with the goal of improving the effectiveness of service delivery by seamlessly, intentionally, and efficiently moving individuals and their families toward economic self-sufficiency and other life goals which they, the clients, identify.

Ceceilia has been admired for her work for many years in Memphis. While quiet in nature, she’s noted as one of the most resounding voices against poverty and antiquated systems that prevent individuals and families from access and opportunities.

About Cecelia Johnson-Powell, Driving the Dream Program Director

Cecelia has over 20 years of service in the public and nonprofit sector. A valiant change agent, she graduated from Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs.

Cecelia has been a general in challenging systems and dismantling obstacles that suppress the opportunities of the disadvantaged and marginalized. Before coming to United Way of the Mid-South, Cecelia has worked with United Way of Central Indiana, Indiana Housing and Community Development Authority, Indianapolis Public Schools, Friends for Life and Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association.

Cecelia has been a driver of developing, funding and evaluating better programs, better processes and better outcomes in early childhood, youth development, affordable housing, emergency assistance, weatherization, emergency shelter, and community development, at the local, state and national levels. 

She is particularly proud of her work to create and launch United Way of Central Indiana’s Childcare for Working Families Fund and Success by 6 initiative, both of which continue to have an ongoing impact in that community for families living in poverty looking to attain and maintain meaningful employment. Cecelia’s current community commitments include the Governing Council of the Memphis/Shelby County Continuum of Care and chair of the Emergency Housing Partnership.

Before entering her new role, Cecilia has been part of the Driving The Dream design team over the past several months and has been an important voice of experience in regards to understanding the emergency services/homeless population sector as well as in understanding the broader system-level lens required to orchestrate the sector integration of the Driving The Dream network.

In her most recent tenure as Director of Program Performance and then Vice President of Family Programs for Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA), one of Memphis’ largest and most respected human services providers, Cecilia took a systems-approach and a commitment to the use of data to assess performance to undergird a culture shift among program staff to better understand and be more sensitive to client needs.  She successfully led efforts to streamline customer processes and to prioritize the use of robust data through a significant customization of the CoActionNet data platform in order to track customer interactions and measure success for more than 10,000 families served annually.  She restructured the organization’s emergency services assessment and resolution process and, in doing so, increased staff efficiencies and improved integration with the community-wide homeless coalition. To assess administrative and programmatic performance, Cecilia pioneered the use of metrics dashboards and data visualization. 

Her life’s philosophy is, “At the end of the day, buy into the dream and get to work. Nothing is impossible.”

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Sign up for MLK Days of Service volunteer activities

Sign up for a MLK Days of Service volunteer opportunity on Volunteer United and join people from across the Mid-South in honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this year. Signing up is simple – just create a quick volunteer profile and start reviewing the ways you can make a difference.

Posted in News, Volunteers |

United Way officer provides guest editorial on poverty for The Commercial Appeal

Lori Spicer Robertson

United Way in the newsThe Commercial Appeal featured a guest editorial “Uniting to fight generational poverty in Memphis” by Lori Spicer Robertson, United Way’s Chief Communications and Engagement Officer.

Robertson shared details about the constructive dialogue at the “Feast of Dreams” last week, as well as United Way’s Driving The Dream initiative to help more people escape poverty. She also noted that the challenge of poverty is multi-generational:

“Children who live in poverty live with adults in poverty. Both are faced with unique circumstances and reasons why they remain stuck in poverty, but we cannot help one group without helping the other. We can educate a child, provide that child food security, but in the end that child still lives with an adult who lives in poverty so addressing the needs of both parent and child as a community is imperative.”

You can read the article at The Commercial Appeal’s website.

Posted in Driving The Dream, Events, News, Poverty |

Feast of Dreams Ignites Solutions on Full Stomachs

Propcellar, 2585 Summer Ave, padded immediately with over 100 guests, brimming with intellect, wisdom, and expertise as they prepared to engage in dinner and discussion around poverty in Memphis and its impact areas on Thursday, December 7th at “Feast of Dreams.”

The coordinator and mistress of ceremonies, Lori Spicer Robertson, Chief Communications and Engagement Officer with United Way of the Mid-South, said the event which took a year and a half to adequately and carefully plan was an “innovative solutions dinner for Memphians across all lines to have candid conversation and produce an enthusiasm to resolve the city’s most pressing challenge: poverty.”


Erling Jensen

Dinner was sponsored by celebrity chef, Erling Jensen, owner of Erling Jensen Resturant in Memphis who designed a 3-course menu for the family style dinner. Participants paid for nothing.



Guests included civic and political leaders from various corporations and organizations including Executive Director, Workforce Investment Program and School Board commissioner Kevin Woods, Pastor Stacey L. Spencer, New Direction Christian Church, and Executive Director of the Women’s Foundation, Ruby Bright.

For 40-minutes, tables held a candid conversation, giving their opinions on how the city reached a poverty rate of 27 percent and childhood poverty rate of 44 percent. Reason ranged from racism and low-wage jobs to a loss in community and coalition building.

The “meeting of the minds” soon turned into a workshop of solutions and networking, participants offering ways in which individuals, organizations

 and the city could move the needle of poverty.

“People have to feel empowered to advocate for themselves and their families,” said Erika Conley, Teach for America.

A looming resound of impacting communities through supporting local and effective organizations such as United Way concluded the night. Bringing organizations together in an effort to boost community, collective impact was another sentiment that garnered snaps and applause.

“We did not get here overnight and we will not reach a resolve tomorrow, but we will get there with the hands of each other you,” concluded President and CEO, Kenneth S. Robinson, United Way.

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“Rip The Runway” MLGW fashion show to benefit United Way, Sunday, Dec. 17

“Rip the Runway”, a charity fashion show with vendor expo and shopping benefiting United Way presented by MLGW employees will take place at The Holiday Inn at the University of Memphis, 3700 Central Avenue on Sunday, December 17 beginning at 5:00 p.m.

Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door, and $30 for VIP seating. For more information, please contact Shakira Hollingsworth at shollingworth@mlgw.org (901) 734-4052 or Jovan Harris at jharris1@mlgw.org (901) 830.5560.

Posted in Events, News, Volunteers |

Pull Up A Chair: United Way Offers A Seat at its Own Table at “Feast of Dreams”

Tonight (December 7, 2017), United Way of the Mid-South is hosting our first foray of a round-table called the Feast of Dreams. At this innovative-solutions dinner, we have invited a cross-section of leaders – faith, business, young professionals, educators, health leaders, financiers, nonprofits, government, low-income residents, etc. – to all discuss the question of the evening, “as the most generous and poorest city, how do we all unite to make fighting poverty a priority for this community?” Lori Spicer Robertson

What’s a better way sit down with a diverse group of Memphians and discuss the city’s most pertinent challenges? Why, over dinner – especially a dinner sponsored by Chef Erling Jensen where participants can have a candid dialogue on topics including poverty, education, health, and financial stability.

“All great, uninhibited change begins at the dinner table,” says Lori Spicer Robertson, Chief Communications and Engagement Officer, United Way of the Mid-South. “Many people talk about our city’s challenges but in our own separate silos and communities. One way to broaden the conversation is to have it with people we do not interact with every day and hear the narratives of their experiences.”

Erling Jensen

The 100 attendees include representatives from the public and private sector, activists, media representatives, academia, leaders of faith groups, and clients of different service agencies and organizations. The conversation only begins at the table, but the relationships and actions of the attendees made after the dinner make all the difference in how Memphis moves forward.

“We not only believe in diversity of thought but the diversity of solutions and experiences. It is these active and provocative conversations, which will be held here that will  advance the civic dialogue and investment around poverty in our city, inspiring the next wave of progression and inclusion in how we all work together in addressing these issues in the new year,” says Rev. Kenneth S. Robinson M.D., President and CEO of United Way of the Mid-South.

Mingling will start at 5:30 p.m.  followed by dinner and dialogue at 6 p.m.

Posted in Events, Poverty |

United Way featured in December edition of Inside Memphis Business magazine

The December/January edition of Inside Memphis Business magazine is the publication’s “Philanthropy Issue.”

Inside Memphis Business’ “the office” section features a story about United Way of the Mid-South highlighting our President & CEO, Reverend Kenneth S. Robinson, M.D., and the benefits of our United Way Plaza in its work with local organizations on our second floor.

This edition of Inside Memphis Business will be available on many newsstands soon. Check out a sneak peek online at the publication’s website.

Posted in News |

Use Amazon Smile to help United Way on Cyber Monday, during the holidays, and all year long

Today is “Cyber Monday,” widely recognized as the start of the holiday shopping season online. It’s also a day you can choose to make your shopping beneficial to people struggling to escape generational poverty.

If you are shopping with Amazon.com remember to use “Amazon Smile” and select “United Way of the Mid-South” to help people escape generational poverty.

Amazon Smile helps you make gifts to United Way throughout the holidays, and all year long. Join the fight against poverty by selecting United Way of the Mid-South as your Amazon Smile recipient charity today.

Posted in Fund Raising |

Make a #GivingTuesday donation to United Way this holiday season!

Enjoy Thanksgiving Thursday, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday, and don’t forget to help United Way on #GIVINGTUESDAY!

You can also text the word POVERTY to 40403 and receive a link for making a #GivingTuesday gift to United Way of the Mid-South.

(If you can’t wait, make your Giving Tuesday gift NOW – and thank you!)

Posted in Fund Raising |