Women United Spring Social Blooms New Business for Women-Owned Shops and New Connections 

2022 Women United Chairs Daphne Dansby, Kirk Forrester and Wendi Boyen
Women United Co-Chairs Daphne Dansby, Kirk Forrester and Wendi Boyen.

Between an abundance of florals and backyard bird singing, you can’t go far without being reminded spring has officially sprung. United Way of Central Alabama’s (UWCA) Women United kicked off the season by hosting their annual Spring Social. Members reconnected and met new faces while browsing vendors featuring local women-owned businesses.

The over 1600 members across Central Alabama who make up Women United give $1,000 or more annually to support UWCA’s efforts. Through education, philanthropy and volunteerism, members inspire other women to become change agents in their community.

The Magic Behind Women United 

Women United Co-Chair and UWCA Board Member Kirk Forrester gives remarks at the Women United Spring Social.

Women United Co-Chair and UWCA Board Member Kirk Forrester of “Flower Magazine” reinforced why they continue to show up. Not just at events like this one, but through their everyday work.

“The great civil rights leader—and fellow Alabamian–John Lewis once said, ‘We may not have chosen the time, but the time has chosen us,'” said Forrester. “We are living through turbulent times. Our community is emerging from two years of pandemic and while many of our neighbors have come out of that strong and resilient, many are struggling. Whether through direct programs like Meals on Wheels or through partner agencies like Boys and Girls Club, United Way stands in the gap for our neighbors on the brink. Birmingham has a lot going for it these days.  We have a lot to be excited about and proud of, but we will never reach our greatest potential until everyone in our community has the chance to live a good life. Simply put, United Way gives people that chance. “

As Forrester mentioned, there are many reasons UWCA’s Women United is so special. Two big ones run true for all members—the programs they are supporting at UWCA and the people they’re supporting them with. Volunteering side by side with others who seek to increase everyone’s access to housing, education, healthcare and financial stability makes the relationship between members strong.

Between this kind of relationship and the commitment Women United has to serving others, it’s hard to imagine what they can’t accomplish. Many members repeated how ready and eager they were to continue tackling challenges individuals and families face throughout the region.

Getting Back to the Mission

In addition to the beautiful weather, there couldn’t have been a better setting to celebrate Women United’s mission. Women United hosted the social on the Mallie Ireland Dansby campus at UWCA, which houses the Frances Spain Hodges and Alice M. Williams buildings–all three named after women integral in making United Way what it is today. 

Daphne Dansby from Brasfield & Gorrie and a Women United Co-chair loved seeing the support of women-owned businesses at the event.

“There are so many entrepreneurs now–they just need a chance to get their products out,” said Dansby. “One conversation with one person could be the interaction that sets their business up for success. This is a great opportunity for them. The exposure they’re going to receive is awesome. Whether we know it or not, this is impactful for them.”

The businesses included Wildflower Honey Truck, Workshops Empowerment Inc. (a UWCA partner agency), Thank You Books, Renew Dermatology, The Travel Studio, Blueroot Co., Brinix Co., A. Edge Designs, and Lillie’s Cup. The businesses also gave back a percentage of their sales from the evening to United Way.

Director of Agency Relations and Allocations for Community Impact Shakeitha Tatum makes a purchase from Blueroot Co.

But the event wasn’t just an excuse to shop; it was Women United’s first in-person Spring Social in over two years. Despite keeping up with members through Zoom and COVID-safe volunteer opportunities, it was finally an opportunity to be back together and remind themselves why they are a part of the organization.

“Joining Women United is a great way to learn more about the services United Way provides that are truly affecting women and meet other women who have the same interest in giving and helping our community,” said Dansby.

Dansby first became interested in Women United after participating in the Salvation Army Angel Tree project. She helped the parents and children in a way she hadn’t had the opportunity to before and learned more about the families in need. Along with her co-chair and coworker Grace Harrelson, Dansby will lead similar volunteer efforts for Women United this year.

“I’m looking forward to being a part of the volunteer opportunity co-chair and helping organize and promote those opportunities,” said Dansby. “Even for people who are not a part of Women United, getting them more involved so they have more interest in becoming a partner.”

Wendi Boyen, a Women United Co-Chair with Regions Bank, echoed a similar answer to Dansby’s for why she joined Women United more than 20 years ago. Through projects like serving at the Community Food Bank of Central Alabama, she’s enjoyed opportunities to meet old and new members and form connections.

“I especially enjoy these types of gatherings to meet others, but also the educational opportunities and lunches where you can learn more about United Way’s priorities,” said Boyen.

Being back at the in-person event excited her for what’s to come this year in her position as co-chair, where she’ll head up the Women United Wednesday lunch series. At these quarterly luncheons, members hear about some of the most pressing needs in our community and how United Way and our partners are addressing them.

Learn more about Women United by clicking here.

Don’t forget to visit United Way of Central Alabama on Instagram on the first Wednesday of every month to find out more about Women United members.