Visiting Allocation Team Made United Way “Come to Life” for Campaign Chair

Leroy Abrahams, Head of Community Engagement at Regions Bank and Chair of this year’s United Way Campaign, speaks at a recent J. Mason Davis Leadership Society event.

As Leroy Abrahams has progressed through a successful, decades-long banking career, United Way has been part of that journey from the start.

Abrahams, who is Executive Vice President of Community Engagement at Regions Bank, is serving as this year’s Campaign Chair for United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA). Abrahams first became a contributor to United Way in the late 1980s, while serving in one of his earliest jobs in Texas.

After his first year of participating in a campaign, he was asked to be part of a Visiting Allocation Team (VAT), which tours partner agency sites, reviews applications and engages with leadership to help determine what level of support United Way should provide to a given agency each year.

That experience really bolstered his commitment to the organization and turned him into a lifelong advocate.

“Being part of a VAT was exciting because it really made what we do at United Way come to life,” Abrahams said. “Seeing community volunteers go through books of material on these agencies to really dig in and understand what the organization did and then have the power, ultimately, to decide on what that allocation of funds would be to every organization, it’s tremendous.”

Additionally, Abrahams said that being a VAT member showed him the quality of work done by United Way agencies, as well as the accountability ensured by the allocation process.

When he and his family moved to Birmingham in 2013, he began supporting UWCA, and his involvement has grown exponentially. Abrahams says he doesn’t know of any organization that better serves the full circle of needs that people experience.

“Let’s say that your cause of choice is education. You’re concerned about the educational levels of our kids,” he said. “It’s a great cause to give to, but can you have kids really learn how to read in an environment where there’s housing instability? Can kids really learn in an environment where there’s hunger insecurity?”

Each of these factors, and more, affects the ability of students to learn.

Abrahams continued, “What organization, other than United Way, would you be able to give to — if you’re interested in education — that also provides funding for those wraparound services that are essential to educational attainment?”

In his current role, Abrahams leads Regions’ own community-support efforts, where he has an up-close view of the economic, health, safety, education and housing needs of individuals and families across the Central Alabama region.

Abrahams appreciates that the work of UWCA goes beyond putting a Band-Aid on immediate needs.

“Band-Aids are important, but United Way empowers people and gives people an opportunity to get at root causes [of problems] and to provide longer-term solutions,” Abrahams said. “Ultimately, we’re a better society, and even the people that give are better off through seeing an improved society as a result of that giving.”

It’s that big-picture view of how United Way makes this a better community for us all that Leroy Abrahams brings to his term as Campaign Chair. The clearer that becomes to others, the more successful this year’s campaign will surely be. And more people throughout our community will have access to the help they need.

Abrahams poses while volunteering during a recent food box packing event at the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama.