United Way breaks record in raising money to break hunger cycle

Actress Vanessa Williams shares stories from her life with Olivia Fierro and those who attended the recent We Are UNITED luncheon at the Arizona Biltmore. (Submitted photo)

Valley of the Sun United Way raised a record-breaking $378,000 at its annual Women United We Are UNITED luncheon Friday, May 18, at the Arizona Biltmore.

The money will benefit two of the organization’s programs that aim to eliminate hunger among school children — WeekEnd Hunger Backpacks and Breakfast in the Classroom. The funds raised on Friday will help support more than 200,000 meals to children and families in need, according to a release.

Grammy, Tony and Emmy Award-nominated performer and author Vanessa Williams served as the event’s keynote speaker, sharing stories from her life during a conversation with mistress of ceremonies Olivia Fierro.

“When you’re hungry you can’t learn, you can’t be yourself and it takes away a part of you,” Williams stated. “I’m so happy to be here with you today, and I’m so happy that this is your mission, and I’m so proud that you’ve done so well.”

Other speakers included Tillman Middle School principal Dr. Chad Smith who shared his own experience with the effects of hunger in the classroom.

USAA was the presenting sponsor of the luncheon. (Submitted photo)

Latasha Causey and Jenny Holsman Tetreault are the co-chairs of Women United and served as the co-chairs of the luncheon.

The honorary chairwoman of the event was Arizona first lady Angela Ducey.

The presenting sponsor was USAA.

Since 1925, Valley of the Sun United Way “has unified diverse partners, donors, business supporters, nonprofits, government and faith-based communities to build a stronger Valley,” the release stated, adding the organization has 90,000 donors, 400 business supporters and 5,000 volunteers.

“Valley of the Sun United Way’s ‘Women United’ embraces the philanthropic spirit of Frances Wisebart Jacobs, founder of the nation’s first United Way 125 years ago, who understood the power of women to effect change,” according to the release.

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