2023 Community Impact Breakfast Celebrates Record Year

Erin Birch speaks at 2023 Community Impact Breakfast

The United Way of Sumner County 2023 Community Impact Breakfast took place on Thursday, August 10, 2023, at The Gathering Place by Bit-O-Heaven Catering.   162 people were in attendance as CEO, Erin Birch welcomed everyone.  Clarence Payne, Director of St. Vincent de Paul Society, gave the invocation followed by a few words from Tara Tenorio, Community Development Regional Manager for Presenting Sponsor, Meta.  

Tara Tenorio speaks at 2023 Community Impact Breakfast


Erin then spoke of the joy in serving as CEO of United Way of Sumner County and talked about the collective impact of our work in the community.  She thanked the crowd for their part in a record-setting year in which we allocated 38% more funding than last year to our 35 non-profit partner agencies and assisted with over 2,000 calls to our 2-1-1 resource line!  She acknowledged campaign coordinators, donors, volunteers, elected officials, CEO's, the UWSC Board of Directors and staff, and our UWSC Funded Partner Agencies for each one's part in our work by saying, "...it is by your passion and dedication to serving others that, together, we have created a ripple effect of good, touching the lives of countless individuals and families right here in Sumner County."


Len Silverman with Michelle McMillon of Servpro for Overall Top Fundraiser for 2022 Campaign

Len Silverman, UWSC Board Chair, then kicked off the celebration of accomplishment for the 2022 Campaign by talking about our mantra of GIVE, ADVOCATE, VOLUNTEER and presented the company awards in the GIVE category.  Award winners for Most Raised included:

  • Overall Top Fundraiser - Servpro Industries, $143,988.
  • Most Raised:  Multi-location Company - Sumner County Schools, $155,946.26.
  • Most Raised:  Business - Sumner Schools Maintenance Department, $31,032.
  • Most Raised:  Government - City of Gallatin, $3,550.
  • Most Raised:  Large Medical - TriStar Hendersonville Medical Center, $30,603.87
  • Most Raised:  Manufacturing/Service - Servpro Industries, $143,988.
  • Most Raised:  Retail - Publix Super Markets Charities, $72,373
  • Most Raised:  Schools/Colleges - Hendersonville High School, $15,365.10

Pat Conner, UWSC Immediate Past Board Chair, then presented the awards for Highest Employee Participation. The awards were based on companies who had submitted their total number of employees at the beginning of the campaign season compared with the number of employees who participated in Workplace Giving.  Award winners included:

  • Highest Employee Participation:  Business - Gallatin Department of Electricity, 68%.
  • Highest Employee Participation:  Manufacturing/Service - ITW Dynatec, 94%.
  • Highest Employee Participation:  Schools/Colleges - Oakmont Elementary School, 100%.

Next, Susan Gaimari, UWSC Board Secretary, presented the awards for Highest Growth which compared amounts raised in the 2021 Campaign to the 2022 Campaign.  Award winners included:

  • Highest Growth:  Business - Schell Brothers, 327% growth.
  • Highest Growth:  Manufacturing/Service - Servpro, 234% growth.
  • Highest Growth:  Retail - Dollar General, 1,823% growth.
  • Highest Growth:  Schools/Colleges - Westmoreland Middle School, 200% growth.

Erin returned to the podium to acknowledge and thank our Top 20 Companies for the 2022 Campaign.  They are:

  1. Servpro Industries
  2. Publix Super Markets Charities
  3. ITW StampTech Fasteners
  4. ITW Dynatec
  5. Sumner County Schools Maintenance Department
  6. TriStar Hendersonville Medical Center
  7. The Farmers Bank
  8. Publix Store #1739, Shops at Windsong, Gallatin
  9. Publix Store #119, Hendersonville
  10. Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA)
  11. Caterpillar Financial
  12. Gallatin Department of Electricity
  13. TriStar Skyline Medical Center
  14. Hendersonville High School
  15. Publix Store #1033, Greensboro Village, Gallatin
  16. Publix Store #1141, Goodlettsville
  17. Volunteer State Bank
  18. Aladdin Temp-Rite
  19. First Horizon Bank
  20. Southeastern Building Corporation

Erin Birch with Regina Bartlett, Top Individual Donor for 2022 Campaign


She then presented the last award under the category of GIVE - the Top Individual Donor - to Regina and Tony Bartlett.

Kelley Crecelius with Stephen Bearden, Advocate of the Year for 2022 Campaign

Kelley Crecelius, UWSC Vice Chair, presented the next category of ADVOCATE which included the Advocate of the Year Award.  The Advocate of the Year takes an active interest and role in understanding the needs of our community and then acts and speaks on behalf of those who need our help most.  The winner was Stephen Bearden.

Toni Dew, UWSC Projects Manager, introduced the final category of awards for VOLUNTEER.  She shared that for the 2022 Campaign year, 123 volunteers contributed 1,595 volunteer hours to United Way of Sumner County. Candidates for the Volunteer of the Year Award gave a significant contribution of time (more than 40 hours per year) helping build a stronger and more effective United Way of Sumner County. They demonstrate an unyielding dedication to community service and to improving lives in Sumner County by volunteering for a United Way of Sumner County event or fundraiser, working in the United Way office performing an array of tasks, serving on a United Way committee or performing volunteer work on a community project lead by United Way of Sumner County.  

Toni Dew with Theresa Dowell-Fuqua, Volunteer of the Year for 2022 Campaign

Before announcing the winner of the award, she acknowledged the nine volunteers who contributed at least 40 hours of their time during the 2022 Campaign.  They were:  Stephen Bearden, Pat Conner, Kelley Crecelius, Theresa Dowell-Fuqua, Susan Gaimari, Alana Hibbler, Sean Morrison, Michele Owens, and Norman Rubio.  The winner of the Volunteer of the Year Award, who served at every UWSC event and every UWSC drive, plus helped to recruit additional volunteers for UWSC, was Theresa Dowell-Fuqua.

The Youth Volunteer of the Year gives a significant contribution of time (a minimum of 15 hours per year) helping build a stronger and more effective United Way of Sumner County. They demonstrate an unyielding dedication to community service and to improving lives in Sumner County by volunteering for a United Way of Sumner County event or fundraiser, working in the United Way office performing an array of tasks, serving on a United Way committee or performing volunteer work on a community project lead by United Way of Sumner County. This year's award was presented to Sean Morrison.

Sean Morrison, Youth Volunteer of the Year for 2022 Campaign


Next, Michelle Groves, UWSC Development Manager, talked about a brand new award meant to embody the full spirit of GIVE, ADVOCATE, VOLUNTEER.  The Company of the Year Award considers all aspects of company involvement with United Way of Sumner County. Based on a points formula, the award gives credit for how well a company supports each component of the UWSC slogan.   

For GIVE, it included points for every $10k raised including workplace giving and sponsorships, as well as a point for having at least 75% employee participation in a workplace giving campaign.  For ADVOCATE, it gave points for having a representative serve on the UWSC Board of Directors or Allocations Committee, inviting UWSC to speak to employees, involving senior leadership in encouraging employees to support United Way, and for serving as a public drop-off location or conducting an internal collection campaign for one of the UWSC community drives.  For VOLUNTEER. points were given for providing volunteers for one of the UWSC events or to help sort, log, or deliver items from a community drive; for having volunteers serve on the Golf or Gala committee; or for supplying volunteers to help in the United Way office.  It also awarded points for coordinating with United Way to supply volunteers for a Day of Action at a UWSC partner agency.  To qualify for the award, companies must have at least one point in each category of GIVE, ADVOCATE, and VOLUNTEER with the winner based on the highest total points earned.


She announced that for the 2022 Campaign, 80 companies earned at least one point towards the award, but only five qualified to win the award with at least one point in each category. In fifth place was Volunteer State Bank. In fourth place was First Horizon Bank.  In third place was TriStar Hendersonville Medical Center.  In second place, with 12 points, was ITW StampTech Fasteners.  The winner of the award for Company of the Year for the 2022 Campaign, with 19 points, was Servpro Industries!

Servpro, Company of the Year for 2022 Campaign
Servpro, Company of the Year for 2022 Campaign

After congratulating the winners for the 2022 Campaign, she told the crowd that the event was also the Kick-off of the 2023 Campaign and shared some next steps for how to be involved with United Way of Sumner County through Workplace Giving, Events, Community Drives, or Volunteering.

She then went on to share the latest research regarding ALICE, based on 2021 data.  ALICE stands for Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed and represents the group of households who earn above the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) but below what it costs to live in Sumner County.  The newest data revealed that 42% of Sumner County households live below the ALICE Threshold with 8% in poverty and 34% in the group called ALICE.  She talked about the opposing economic forces exhibited during the pandemic that worked to both help and hurt those below the ALICE Threshold.  Though, prices rose annually by 7.5% across the U.S. in 2021, compared to 3% annually in the prior 10 years, various temporary pandemic supports did the job of providing a much needed cushion for struggling households.

She shared that there was actually a decline in the percent of ALICE households in all but one of Sumner County zip codes.  Westmoreland saw an increase from 59% to 60% of households below the ALICE Threshold as of 2021.  Castalian Springs showed the biggest improvement, going from 48% in 2018 to 34% in 2021.

However, she explained, that even though emergency measures to help our economy did mitigate the financial crisis facing those living under the ALICE threshold, it wasn’t enough to get them financially stable.  In 2021, a family of four with both a preschooler and an infant in childcare and two adults working full-time in two of those most common jobs in Tennessee (a retail salesperson and a cashier) earned $48,630 which meant that even AFTER the child tax care credits, they fell almost $28,000 short of the $76,332 needed to afford the basics in Sumner County.

Michelle Groves speaks to crowd at 2023 Community Impact Breakfast

She pointed out that for households that struggle to make ends meet across all demographic groups, the crux of the problem is a mismatch between earnings and the cost of basics. Despite an increase in the median wage among the 20 most common jobs in the state by 2021, 70% of those jobs still paid less than $20 per hour. She added that 70% of the Top 20 jobs could not even afford what it costs for a single adult to live in Sumner county, much less a family! Yet none of them make below the FPL for a single adult ($12,880) meaning they would not qualify for most public assistance.

She went on to clarify and explain how the ALICE Household Survival Budget is based on the bare minimum cost of household basics needed to live and work in the modern economy and is not sustainable over time.  For example, rent is based on HUD's Fair Market Rent at the 40th percentile of gross rents and is budgeted for a single parent and child to share a bedroom in a one-bedroom apartment. 

She added that, this year, the study included an ALICE Stability Budget which represents a more financially stable, less austere standard of living than the Survival Budget. For example, instead of the 40th percentile for rent, it uses the median rent for the area AND, for 2-parent families, instead of rent, it includes a mortgage for a moderate house because home ownership leads to greater financial stability and is often less expense than renting.  But, still, the struggle for ALICE families is that it’s very hard, if not impossible, to save enough money for a down payment.  Low credit scores are also common for ALICE families which makes interest rates higher or even prevents them altogether from securing a loan on their own.  Using the Household Stability Budget, instead of the Survival Budget, that same family of four with a preschooler and an infant in childcare, would need to earn $104,688 per year to be financially stable.  

She concluded by introducing Connie Cude from Sumner Academy who shared firsthand what it's like to be ALICE and how important United Way and its partnership agencies are to families who are struggling!  Connie shared that she was raised by a single mom who was divorced with three children under the age 5 and no child support.  Her mother worked hard to support her family, but only made the equivalent of about $18,000 per year in today's money.  She could not afford a car, so they used bus transportation.  Her grandparents were farmers so they supplied food for the family, but her home was in public housing.

Connie Cude speaks at 2023 Community Impact Breakfast

Connie fondly spoke of the caring environment of a United Way supported child care facility that allowed her mother to work without the stress of wondering if her children were safe and in a healthy environment.  She and her siblings were fed, nurtured, encouraged, and loved by the staff at the day care which felt more like a home than a day care.  Her mother dropped her children off at 7am every day and picked them up at 5pm.  Because the day care was a United Way agency, her mother paid for care on a sliding scale at a rate of about $50 per week (in today's money) for three children. Connie estimated that if her mother had been required to pay the full cost of day care, it would have represented about 82% of her total salary.  "Without the help she received, my mother couldn't have worked and couldn't have taken care of her children."

Connie believes her time at the day care changed her life.  She felt a sense of belonging there and was told every day that she was smart and capable.  As she got older, they helped her with her homework after school.  If she needed supplies, the agency director would get them from United Way. The agency partnered with local businesses, friends, and other organizations to make sure Connie and her siblings had all the same experiences and opportunities as any other child.  Because of the support she received there, she never felt poor.  They went on field trips; had ballet lessons, sewing lessons, and baseball lessons; went to the children's theater and on fishing trips; participated in Brownies and Girl Scouts; and made projects like quilts and even a china doll which she still has to this day, and even brought to show the crowd!  

Her biggest takeaway was that she grew up knowing that there were people, groups, and organizations who "care for you no matter how much money you have or don't have... or where you come from or what your background is... This isn't charity.  It's a leg-up and a start...  Personally I learned that I could go anywhere and be anything."  She went on to get her Master's Degree and become a teacher.  She was taught that is was her responsibility to help others whenever she could.  She has been giving to United Way ever since she started working.  "There's no better way than United Way to do this."  When she finished speaking, she received a standing ovation from the crowd!

Len Silverman then came to the stage and talked about the importance of advocating for ALICE.  He said, "All of us now are champions for this cause.  We're educated and we understand what's going on in this community... Let people know what's going on.  Let them know the critical role that United Way and our 35 plus partner agencies play in serving ALICE and in serving our neighbors."

Erin wrapped up the morning by thanking everyone, especially Connie for bravely sharing her story.

Click here to see our Facebook event photo album including all winner photos.

And if you missed the event, you can watch it on Facebook Live here!