2019 Young Leaders Society Member of the Year Award
Honoring Ken Imwinkelried

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The Young Leaders Society Member of the Year award is presented annually to a young professional who exemplifies the work of United Way within the Young Leaders Society, an action group working towards improving the lives of children, and engaging young professionals in the United Way mission. Our award winner has made a significant impact on the success and growth of United Way’s Young Leaders Society, increasing our capacity to serve the community. Through his generous gift of volunteer time and financial resources, this individual  has gone above and beyond to serve the mission of United Way, the vision of the Young Leaders Society, and the lives of families in our community.  

This year we recognize Ken Imwinkelried with the Young Leaders Society Member of the Year Award. Read on to learn his stories.

How did you first get involved with United Way?
Slightly over 3 years ago, I was introduced to United Way and the Young Leaders Society (YLS) through Joaquin Razo shortly after he joined United Way team. Coincidentally, I was looking for opportunities to get more engaged in philanthropy and service. While I had been very much dedicated to career, it was time to re-engage with serving my community. YLS was a perfect avenue, providing the “mission-first” perspective and flexibility to maximize impact.
 
Tell us about a moment with United Way that you makes you proud.
I’ll always be partial to the K2C project. YLS help put together seed funding to help the program launch more broadly into our region. Ultimately, so many of our societal issues stem from education. Moreover, so much of those issues are beyond the raw funding of school systems, and in my opinion can’t be wholly addressed through that platform.

K2C, while not necessarily representing huge dollars, makes a big step towards reshaping the students’, and their families’ perspectives towards education. It is a small investment, which may be a slight assistance in the direct support for future educational needs. However, its early impact, supported by research, spans a much broader impact in forcing the conversation and educational expectations. 

Why do you volunteer with United Way?

There are plenty of reasons to volunteer, but the question then leads more specifically to United Way. The surge of technological accessibility has enabled much more niche causes and efforts to garner a larger market-share of support. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, those causes then by definition have a narrower focus.

The reality is that our communities are dynamic, and the needs of those communities are similarly dynamic and broad. If the goal is to improve our communities, our approach must similarly be dynamic and broad. For maximal impact, an organization must have both interconnectedness with the community to understand its changing needs and the flexibility to appropriately adapt the allocation and delivery of its support to those changing needs.

In a world where accessibility has helped create ever more narrow focuses and opportunities, United Way doesn’t lose sight of the “big picture.” It isn’t overly consumed in the competitive world of fundraising dollars, and more-so seeks to identify the underlying needs and help organize and orchestrate the deployment of those resources for sustainable change. Inevitably, there are some underlying needs of United Way in that arena, but never at the cost of the larger impact that can be made on the community.

How does United Way make a difference in our community?

Though its hard to quantify a long-term impact this early on, I am drawn to  the Square One project.  In my experience, a simple “day of service” or small one-time donation has a limited impact. The longer-term impact is exponentially greater with sustained effort and focus. While I can speak to that more anecdotally, I believe the thesis would hold beyond individual contributions to a larger organizational focus. Beyond the specific impact, the model demonstrates strong potential in re-aligning how we think of service and improving our community.
 


What does the Young Leaders Society Member of the Year award mean to you? 

The award, in and of itself, is a huge honor. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have fallen into YLS, and the acknowledgment of my small efforts is greatly appreciated.

However, the real award comes from the relationships. Through YLS, I’ve had an amazing opportunity to meet a diverse and committed group of people. I’ve come across people from every walk of life, private/public/non-profit sectors, young or old, any way you’d want to define/discern people. However, and with that diversity, all were working in a “united way” towards a common goal. 

Of course, those relationships include the YLS members, YLS council, and United Way staff. But also, it includes a broad array of other stakeholders behind these communities and pushing these projects forward. The relationships include those that we’ve served, be it an attendee at a K2C financial workshops or the gratitude on a face upon helping with whatever maintenance/build/planting project came our way.

The Member of the Year Award is immensely appreciated, but the relationships – and any role I may have played in the impact of our combined relationships for the community – are the bigger honor.