Women have played an important role in United Way of Central Carolinas’ mission since its founding in 1931. Now, 90 years later, the organization is still focused on mobilizing the caring power of communities and making a difference in people’s lives—and women are playing a critical role in that work.

 

This Women’s History Month, we are highlighting the incredible impact women have had, and continue to have, in our community. Meet some of the inspiring women at United Way of Central Carolinas who are making the greater Charlotte community a better place to live and showing what it means to Live United.

 

 

Laura Yates Clark

President and CEO

 

What woman do you most admire?

 

Personally, I most admire my mom. She has had to overcome many challenges in her life but taught me that with determination, hard work and a sense of humor you can achieve anything. My mom has lots of sayings but one of my favorites is, “Salt water can cure anything: the ocean, sweat or tears.” She’s right about that!

 

​Professionally, I have great admiration for Dionne Nelson, the owner of Laurel Street Residential, an affordable housing developer in Charlotte. Dionne built her business from the ground up and demonstrates every day how you can be successful and also do good in the world. She never gives up, works harder than just about anybody I know and is a truth-teller like no other. I’ve learned a lot from her.

 

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?

 

I would tell my younger self that nobody can manage your career but you. You have to take charge of where you want to go, work hard and build a network that can help open doors. I would also tell myself to give grace as much as possible. Nobody is perfect and we all have bad days. It costs us nothing to be kind to ourselves and to others. Finally, I’d tell myself to enjoy the wins along the way more and make sure to celebrate the successes of those around you.

 

For aspiring female leaders, I’d tell them to own their strengths. As women, we have a tendency to minimize our intellect and our ambition. Stop beginning sentences with things like, “This might be a dumb question…” Own your knowledge and experience—you earned it. And when you show up confidently, even when you don’t always feel it, others will experience you that way as well.

 

What superpower do you wish you had, and how would you use it?

 

I wish I could breathe underwater. And I would use it to explore all the oceans of the world.

 

 

Kendra Green

AVP Donor Operations

 

What woman do you most admire?

 

The woman I most admire is my mom, Mary Ann Duberry Byas. My mom (and dad) gave my sister and me an abundantly blessed life. I didn’t realize until I got to college just how blessed we were and how much my mom sacrificed to ensure her girls, who she lovingly referred to as silver and gold, had a life that we could look back on and be proud of. She instilled values in me that have carried me through life.

 

Although she is no longer with us, her lessons play a role in every decision I make. I admire her constant quest for knowledge, her strong faith and her dedication to her family. She gave me opportunities that she never had and because of her, I am a first-generation college graduate. If I am blessed to be half the Christian, woman, sister, wife and mother that she was, her sacrifices would not have been in vain.

 

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?

 

Don’t let fear of failure paralyze you. Prepare yourself and step out on faith!

 

What superpower do you wish you had, and how would you use it?

 

I would love to have the power to put a person in the shoes of another person. In life, we always question and judge others for their decisions or their path in life. I would love to be able to put the person who is judging in the shoes of the other person. I believe it would help us to have more compassion for others and to be more understanding.

 

 

Kathryn Firmin-Sellers

Chief Impact Officer

 

What woman do you most admire?

 

I admire many women, but mostly I admire my mom. She attended an Ivy League school way before that was common; she worked as a nurse; and then she raised eight kids to be independent thinkers who understood their responsibility to work to leave the world a better place. Of the eight of us, six entered into some form of public service.

 

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?

 

Don’t only study in school. The most important learning opportunities aren’t found in books.

 

What superpower do you wish you had, and how would you use it?

 

Personally, I want capabilities of the Star Trek transporter because I love to visit new places but I hate the travel time to get there.

 

 

Lawonda Stanfield

Business Support Analyst

 

What woman do you most admire?

 

Juanita Wortham Byrd born in 1911. She was not a famous person BUT in my eyes, she was the Queen. She was my grandmother. Although she is gone, she instilled in me all my morals, ethics and love for all people.

 

Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give your younger self?

 

Get your education first, travel and enjoy life before settling down. Look for employers who respect you as a woman and are willing to accept your values, morals and ethics.

 

What superpower do you wish you had, and how would you use it?

 

The ability to heal. I would heal everyone and no one would ever be sick. I would especially heal the elderly, as society tends to overlook their health care needs.