United Way SELA: We Were Built for this Moment

For 95 years, United Way of Southeast Louisiana has been on the front lines of community problems, both everyday problems and crises. We’ve always had a unique pulse on people’s needs, which is why so many individuals and organizations turn to United Way for support.

While I may be the new chair of United Way SELA’s Board of Trustees, I am not new to this work. I’ve spent over 37 years as a loyal volunteer, advocate, and donor of United Way.

Like many people, I began donating to United Way through our workplace campaign via payroll deduction because I knew my donation would stay in my community and used where it was needed the most. While this is still true today, our United Way is so much more. I became an active advocate with United Way of Southeast Louisiana in the early 2000s to help address the need for quality early child care and education. Not only was this necessary to set up our children on the path of lifelong learning and provide a safe, healthy environment for them to flourish, but also to help attract and retain a talented workforce to Southeast Louisiana. 

Today, I am truly amazed at the way our organization has taken a hard look both inward and outward over the past few years. Our United Way looks at the issues facing our communities and uses a whole-system approach to solving problems -- recognizing both immediate needs while working toward long-term solutions. We are well-positioned to meet the present challenges head-on.

Certainly, there have been few crises as unique as the current COVID-19 pandemic. Still, I can say confidently that our United Way was built for this -- for moments like these which require unlikely partnerships, new solutions to old problems, and the mobilization of community resources.  

We developed United Way SELA’s Blueprint for Prosperity – our plan to eradicate poverty – over five years ago to provide the strategic framework necessary to stabilize the most vulnerable households in our region, create pathways to prosperity, and build a stronger Southeast Louisiana for us all. 

COVID-19 is amplifying issues we are already addressing under our plan - disparities in education, economic mobility, social justice, and health – which has allowed us to rally quickly with our partners to address the immediate needs of our community and generate more than $9 million in impact in only the first three months following the outbreak. 

Moving forward, we must position ourselves to continue to support our most vulnerable community members while developing a plan for long-term recovery from this pandemic. The times ahead will be challenging for Southeast Louisiana as we work to remain healthy, address equity concerns, and tackle the many issues we face on our road to economic recovery. I pledge I will stand with our United Way to meet these challenges head on.

We are living in a crisis that will define generations to come. When we look back at this moment in history, what will we tell our children and grandchildren? What will we say we did we do to make a difference? 

We have an extraordinary opportunity to be a part of the change for good. United Way has the vision and the Blueprint. We just need you. 

Help us seize the moment and join us as we fight to build an equitable Southeast Louisiana where all people are healthy, educated, and economically stable.  

We have one life to live. To live better, we must live United.


Cathy McRae

Cathy McRae

2020-2021 UWSELA Board of Trustees Chair