Dana Garrett, Director of Community Engagement
When did you join the UWCK team: November 2013
Family: Husband, TJ Garrett. Two kiddos, Talon (9) and Taylor (6 mos). Three dogs, Boomer, Murray, Rupp.
How did you first learn about UWCK: At a campaign meeting when I worked at Kentucky Neighborhood Bank around 2009 but didn’t fully understand what UWCK did until meeting Megan Stith during the summer of 2013 when she reached out to have lunch with me after I was featured as Wednesday’s Woman. That’s when I knew that this was something I had to be a part of.
Favorite part of your job: There are so many! I truly feel I was created to lead and be the voice for those in need and working at United Way gives me the opportunity to do that. I’ve worked with several great non-profits in the past, and even have my own, but United Way allows me to not only work with multiple organizations doing great work, but also make an even bigger, long term impact that will effect generations to come. I also love working with people who are as passionate about making a difference as I am—our donors, our volunteers, our businesses who all want to do something and give something and I get the opportunity to help them figure out what is most meaningful to them.
Hardest part of your work: The hardest part is when we don’t raise the amount of money we set out to raise. Although we are a part of a world-wide network, we are an independent, local non-profit and made up of a local board, CEO, and staff of five. Because of that, all of the money we raise comes from donations from our local community and we don’t receive any federal or state funding, So the hardest part of that is when we don’t raise as much money as we set out to raise. Why? Because I want to help every single child in our community to have a chance to have a successful, happy healthy life and while it takes more than just money to make that happen, it does take money to make the over 40 programs we fund to happen. So when we fall short of raising what we know is needed to help the most children, it’s so, so tough. It’s what keeps me up at night. And to be really honest, the second hardest part is when I hear or see misinformation about our United Way of Central Kentucky and it falsely discredits all of the amazing work we are doing to make sure children enter school ready to learn, keep youth on track to succeed in life, and empower families to achieve financial stability. We pour our hearts into the work we are doing and I truly believe the work we are doing is so important in creating a better future for not just those we are directly helping, but for everyone in our community so it can be so frustrating and discouraging when those situations arise.
One thing you wish people knew about United Way: One? How about two? (1.) That we don’t, nor never have, ever funded Planned Parenthood and that no money invested in United Way of Central Kentucky has ever gone to Planned Parenthood. (2) That we aren’t a handout organization, we aren’t a direct service provider organization, we don’t want people at home, not working and depending on assistance programs, and we get just as frustrated as everyone else when we see someone taking advantage of the system. We want to empower people to provide for themselves and their families. We want to give every child living in poverty the opportunity to break that cycle so they can create a better life for their future families. Because of that, we provide support services that aren’t meant for people to depend on but to use as a stepping stone to get to the next level in their life. We provide job supports to remove barriers that are keeping people from working. We provide school supports to ensure children are succeeding in school and being surrounded by positive relationships who are encouraging and motivating them to be more than they ever thought they could be. That type of work is more than what any one organization or program can do, it takes multiple agencies and programs providing what we call ‘wrap-around’ services that are addressing every issue that is keeping someone from being successful. That’s why United Way exists—we are like the quarter back helping to lead that effort while also providing support to all of the wonderful agencies and programs who are helping us to make that long term, measurable impact.
Favorite way to spend a day off: Catching up on work? Unfortunately I’m partially serious. I do force myself to unplug from work and when I do, I enjoy spending time at the ballpark watching my big cutie play ball, going on walks with both of my kiddos, taking naps, and having a glass of wine while watching HGTV.
If you could change one thing about our community what would it be: This one is pretty tough. I know I’m a little biased because I’m a local, born and raised, but I think our region is pretty amazing. That’s what really motivated me to join in on this work—if there is any place where there are the resources and passionate, caring people who are motivated to make a difference, that place is here. I truly believe we have the people, the leadership, and resources to solve so many of the issues that are keeping people from succeeding. The kicker is, it’s not something that just a few of us can take on—it will take all of us to make it happen so I guess the one thing I wish I could change would be to get everyone on the same page and working together towards the same goals. I want us all to live by the credo—Live United.