J. Mason Davis Leadership Society Fuels Positive Change in Central Alabama

United Way of Central Alabama’s (UWCA’s) J. Mason Davis Leadership Society (JMDLS) may be a young organization, but its members aim to leave a legacy. The affinity group commits to fostering the next generation of Black leaders.

“J. Mason Davis Society’s focus on bringing together African American changemakers who champion volunteerism and advocacy for our community is what drew me to holding a leadership position,” said Leonard Casey, UWCA Campaign Cabinet Member and Pipeline Management Director at Spire Energy. “It is very important to me to serve and protect the community of people that may have the same life experiences that I had growing up.”

Simultaneously, the society works to create a positive impact for Central Alabamians, with financial stability support at the forefront. In 2020 alone, the society’s members contributed $619,839 to partner organizations.

Members can network with like-minded individuals across Central Alabama–from coworkers to top executives at leading corporations. Forming these connections leads to progress that creates exciting opportunities for underserved areas.

“Giving through a collective is so empowering. The additional layers of networking and service projects that JMDLS offers members create a multi-dimensional impact that we hope will help – and inspire – generations.”

Senior Vice President of Marketing and Economic Development at Alabama Power Tony Smoke

JMDLS brings members together through a shared affinity for philanthropy, volunteerism and advocacy. It’s not only about fulfilling UWCA’s mission, but also about creating its own and fulfilling it.

“I have tremendous respect for the United Way of Central Alabama and its J. Mason Davis Leadership Society,” said Johnny Smith Jr., VP of Marketing Services at Encompass Health. “The organization has an unwavering commitment to serving the Black community.”

Coming from an underserved community where many of his family still lives, Corey Green has given back to his neighbors for years. Through JMDLS, he’s passionate about helping the Black community achieve more.

“(JMDLS) gives our community a voice in the United Way, which is a very powerful organization,” said Green, Commercial Relationship Manager at Regions Bank and yet another member of the society’s leadership. “It allows for us not to just be recipients of charity, but to be charitable in our giving and doing. This is a great way to change the narrative, change the investment, change the situation and change our community for the better of all communities.”

The members provide opportunities for others through their dedication to service and the JMDLS mission. It allows them to use their connections to friends, family and peers as a vessel for change.

Co-chair Cleo Crawford, for example, promotes JMDLS through conversations with her teenage son and adolescent cousin. Seeking to broaden her perspective even more, she also tries to hear from Birmingham’s youngest generations.

“My roots within the city run very deep and I advocate for UWCA and JMDLS everywhere I go,” said Crawford. “I build on my personal and professional relationships to get the message out about the society and the great things that we are doing for the African American community and constantly ask what things others would like to see improved in our community.”

JMDLS uses its leadership to foster an inclusive and opportunity-filled environment in Central Alabama. The changes its members make will help reflect Birmingham and the surrounding areas in a progressive light.

“As a native daughter of the Westside of Birmingham, I absolutely love this city and I am vested deeply in seeing it be the gold standard by which all others are measured,” said Crawford. “[O]ur citizens are filled with determination, passion and resilience that help us to stand when most would fold in defeat.”

Members of JMDLS contribute $1,000 or more annually to improving the quality of life for Central Alabama residents. To learn more or to join, please visit the website or contact Leah Davis at jmdleadershipsociety@uwca.org.