Giving Back

United Way Women’s Leadership Council Holds Regional Kickoff to Celebrate Merger

Barb Chodos and Janice Koleowo, United Way supporters Credits: Neena Robertson
The kick off was held Thursday night at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Credits: Neena Robertson
The kickoff was held Thursday night at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Credits: Neena Robertson
Stacey Stewart, president of United Way Worldwide, talks with supporters during Thursday's event. Credits: Neena Robertson
Stacey Stewart, president of United Way Worldwide, addresses the audience. Credits: Neena Robertson
Stephanie Hoopes Halpin discusses the ALICE report. Credits: Neena Robertson

MADISON, NJ - On Thursday night, the United Way of Northern Jersey kicked off its official merge of the Women’s Leadership Council which now includes all five counties in Northern Jersey.

The sold-out Regional Kickoff had about 200 people in attendance including President of United Way Worldwide, Stacey Stewart, and Ms. New Jersey, Slywia Krol.

Paulette Chapman, who is a member of the Women’s Leadership Council in Warren, said “I just came out to support!” The support that was shown for the merge echoed throughout the evening. The men and women in attendance also heard about the many changes and improvements to the vast amount of lives that United Way Women’s Leadership Council has touched in a variation of ways; one of those main ways being ALICE, an acronym for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed men and women in the world.

As publisher and editor in chief of New Jersey Monthly, Kate Tomlinson began the night of empowerment by thanking sponsors and the audience for “deciding to be a part of a community that believes in the power of women and change.” She went on to thank Stewart for joining in the recognition of the merge. Before she went on to welcome Sarah Brelvi, United Way’s Chief Professional Officer in Warren County and director of the United Way of Northern New Jersey Women’s Leadership Council to the podium, she recognized that “women have been
an economic powerhouse in the 21st century.”

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Brelvi's speech focused mainly on explaining what ALICE means and how “we cannot go through our day without the help of ALICE.”

Brelvi went on to explain that we see ALICE everyday in our lives. She went on to explain that “ALICE is a new way of seeing the people who live and work in our community. People we all know and need in our lives.” After giving accounts of the ALICEs she comes into contact with during her daily routine, she asked the audience “to appreciate the struggles you may not see on the surface, but exist if you dig a little deeper.” She then called Stephanie Hoopes Halpin, who helped start ALICE and is also author of the United Way ALICE Report.

Halpin, Director of NJ Databank at Rutgers University-Newark, began her speech by stating that people cannot forget that ALICE is also AL, “because, of course we’re talking about both men and women.” Halpin went on to state the numbers and facts recorded from her ALICE report.

“To be more exact, there are 770,000 ALICE households in New Jersey,” Halpin stated, “that’s one of the most startling revelations of United Way’s recent report.” She went on to explain the differences of the ALICE report and the reports given by the Federal Poverty Line, the largest difference being the Federal Poverty Line “doesn’t take into account our state’s high cost of living,” said Halpin. She then went into an explanation of who ALICE is by giving the audience different scenarios, stating where ALICE lives, and why ALICE does exist stating that, “there are two very clear reasons for why there are so many ALICE households. One, it’s because of the high cost of living and two, there’s been a marked increase in the number of low-paying jobs.”

She finished her speech by stating that “when ALICE suffers, we all suffer,” explaining the domino effect of the ALICEs in our lives. Her last statement called for action on behalf of the audience to help, “stabilize a full one-third of our population,” and to work with United Way and “be a part of the solution.”

Stewart then came forward to thank the audience and the previous speakers for committing to help “our communities.”

She went on to call the Regional Kickoff “an important gathering-for New Jersey, for Women, for the Network.” Stewart went on to explain the goals she has set in place since being appointed to her position in September 2012. She claimed that “this year marks the half-way point for our 2018 goals,” and continued to hold a positive attitude through discussing these goals with the audience, making sure that the audience and the other workers of United Way in attendance, knew that these goals for a better education system, health system, and income levels in Northern Jersey, are things that are attainable within the upcoming years. She went on to commend the
women who work in these communities who continue to empower other women to strive above the rest.

“We really have to listen, really listen to communities, and use what they’re telling us to figure out what the problems are,” said Stewart, “you all are off to a great start.” She finished by stating that the audience and women themselves need to “step up to leadership,” and that “we have the girl power to do it,” and to remember that “you will be making a difference worldwide,” not just in your own communities.

As the program came to a close the audience was reminded that we have the “potential to make things happen,” and that “now it’s time for some more Jersey girls to join in the action,” as stated by Brelvi in her closing. She along with Tomlinson, asked of one more thing of their large audience, and that was to “join the United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council.”

At the end of the evening, Stewart told that she believes the merge is a good one.

“I think it’s great and makes a lot of sense," she said. "You get more done when groups come together.” Brelvi had a similar response. “Women who want to empower and give other women a voice? The merge gives me a greater voice. What an honor I have to motivate and empower other women.”

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