2019 Women United Members of the Year Award
Honoring Rocio Cepeda-Espinoza and Tracy Sambrano

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The Women United Member of the Year award is presented annually to one who exemplifies the work of United Way within Women United, an action group working toward improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our community. The award winner has made a significant impact on the success and growth of United Way’s Women United, increasing our capacity to serve the community. Through their generous gift of volunteer time and financial resources, the awardee has gone above and beyond to serve the mission of United Way, the vision of Women United, and the lives of our fellow community members. 

Rocio Cepeda-Espinoza

Tracy Sambrano

This year we recognize not one, but two outstanding women – Tracy Sambrano of Nationwide and Rocio Cepeda-Espinoza of Enterprise - with the Women United Member of the Year Award. Read on to learn their stories.

How did you first get involved with United Way?
Rocio: I have been a United Way donor since 2004. Social awareness and community service has been integral to my upbringing and something instilled in me, by my parents at a very young age.  I began my career with Nationwide in 2004 and quickly aligned my community service passion with Nationwide’s core values and a commitment to improving the communities where our associates work and our members live. Nationwide’s giving campaign has a long standing history with United Way and has worked to match donation dollars to serve our mutual communities.  I began designating gifts to Women United (WU) in 2015.  As a long standing United Way donor I was approached around my interests in the community.  I am naturally drawn to agencies that serve women and children.  WU aligns closely to those interests, serving local foster youth in our communities that are preparing for emancipation. As part of the WU Leadership Council I have had the pleasure of working with other professional women who are passionate about preparing these youth to succeed as they transition into adulthood.   
 
Tracy: I have been involved with United Way since 2002.  I was introduced to United Way and became involved through my company, Enterprise Rent A Car, which has an annual campaign with high participation.  I have been a Women United member since 2009, first became involved through my previous GM, Susie Irwin.   She was a big supporter and she would sponsor a table at the annual luncheon  and invite other women in the company to join her. I was lucky enough to be one of those women and have been involved ever since.
 
Tell us about a moment with United Way that you makes you proud.
Rocio: As a WU Leadership Council member I have been most proud my work to develop and facilitate critical monthly Life Skills Workshops for our local foster youth.  It is an opportunity to tap into the talents of our WU members as they provide much-needed workshop support in critical life skill areas ranging from how to budget a checkbook to how to dress for an interview.  I am most proud of the impact we can make in a short hour with these foster youth. To observe their transformation – increase in confidence and overall understanding – is most rewarding in this process.  
Tracy: I would also say that I am most proud of the work Rocio and I have been engaged in through the WU Council, which is organizing monthly life workshops that are presented to the boys and girls at Koinonia. They allow different Women United members to connect with kids and help them as they move forward in life.  I have lead several workshops and have found it very rewarding to interact with the kids and share some valuable information!
 
Why do you volunteer with United Way?
Rocio: I believe we should all be community stewards,  we have a responsibility to give our time, talent or treasure.   I also believe it is my responsibility to be that role model for my daughter as my mother was a role model and example for both my sister and I.
Tracy: I know that not everyone is as fortunate as I have been and it is important for me to give back and help others. United Way gives me an opportunity to do that.

How does United Way make a difference in our community?
Tracy: There are a lot of ways that the UW makes a difference in our community, one way for example is with women united which is a group of women that are passionate about helping Foster Youth in our community with our monthly Life Workshops and through funding special savings accounts (IDA’s) that will help them cover some essentials such as rent, transportation, college books and more when they emancipate from the program. 
Rocio: There are a number of critical initiatives that United Way California Capital Region serves.  The areas that I am most passionate about are the efforts to keep our children in school.  The Healthy Meals program, as part of the Square One Project, safeguards kids against hunger.  The healthy meals provided ensure that children remain focused and healthy. The program not only ensures that they have access to meals but it ensures they have access to well-balanced meals that are nutritious and support overall well-being.  The work that United Way is doing to keep children on track in reading and math is also critical to paving a way to higher education.  Volunteer Literacy Tutors support efforts so children are reading at appropriate grade levels and don’t fall behind. Lastly Women United and the work with local Foster Youth.  United Way’s work alongside multiple community agencies has been significant.  Whether it’s working to collect critical basics needs such as towel sets or duffle bags to providing essential life skill training the impact is significant.  I am proud of United Ways work to identify gaps and provide solutions.

What does the Women United Member of the Year award mean to you?
Rocio: I am honored to receive the Women United Member of the Year award.  This award recognizes not only my passion and commitment to the community but the pride I have in working for a company such as Nationwide that values commitment to the community as much as I do.    
Tracy: I am extremely honored to be given this award and to be part of an organization and a group of women that are just as passionate about helping our Foster Youth successfully transition out of the care system into life on their own as I am.  I look forwarding to our members growing and enabling us to reach even more foster youth!