Agents of Change: Women United and Jill Deer

When Jill Deer helped plan the launch of Women United three years ago, she was part of a vision – a vision of a forward-thinking group within United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA) that would inspire, educate and motivate women to become positive change agents in our community. Their tools would be philanthropy, volunteerism and leadership. And they would promote, in big and bold ways, the important work being done by women in Central Alabama.

Pacesetter Chair Jill Deer with Campaign Chair Jeff Stone

Jill, who is Vice President of Development and Administration at Brasfield & Gorrie, was actually part of the group before it even became Women United. “It was called DIVAS, which stood for Developing Initiatives and Values Among Sisters, and we all wore feather boas and pink from head to toe,” she said. DIVAS was fun and serious at the same time, but needed a fresh direction. So Women United was formed as an affinity group of UWCA.

Since then, Women United has flourished. More and more women have stepped up to make a difference. They’ve taken on signature projects, such as partnering with Habitat for Humanity to help women who become new homeowners. They’re also diving deep into current issues, including opioid addiction and children’s mental health.

Jill has been there almost every step of the way. In fact, she’s been involved with UWCA and its programs, groups and partner agencies in a multitude of ways. Through the years, she’s served as Co-Chair of the Loaned Executive program; she’s been a member of both the Tocqueville Committee and the Legal Committee; and she’s served on the boards of partner agencies Girls, Inc. and the American Heart Association. Currently, her involvement includes serving on the YWCA board, as well as delivering hot meals and a smile to homebound seniors as a Meals on Wheels volunteer. This, of course, is in addition to her ongoing participation in Women United.

With all that said, however, she has also taken on what may be her biggest and most challenging role yet as this year’s UWCA Pacesetter Campaign Chair – working with more than 70 corporations in the largest Pacesetter Campaign to date. She’s also the first woman to hold the position in two decades. While such a busy schedule might seem overwhelming to some, it’s the opposite for Jill.

“Service helps me take a deep breath and remember what life is about, and not get so wrapped up in my to-do list. In that way, service has always been a respite for me,” she said.

Jill credits her time working at Bayer Properties, and that company’s enthusiasm for community involvement, as the catalyst for her initial involvement with United Way 20 years ago.

“I got a newsletter from Girls, Inc., so I called some people on the board and said, ‘This looks like a great organization. Will you teach me more about it?’” she said. “I share that story to encourage younger Women United members to take the initiative to get involved…instead of sitting back and waiting for someone to ask you.”

Jill Deer with fellow Women United members Maresha Watts and Renita Harris

The influence that her 20 years of service with United Way of Central Alabama and its partner agencies have had on her life has been far-reaching – developing her personal and professional networks, as well as informing and enlightening her about the community’s needs and the many ways that one person can make a difference.

“With United Way, you always get more than you give,” she says with a smile.