United Way Women’s Leadership Council Celebrates Women in Philanthropy

Alana Sweeny, United Way of Westchester and Putnam, Ruth Mahoney, KeyBank
L to R: Alana Sweeny, President and CEO United Way of Westchester and Putnam; Ruth Mahoney, KeyBank’s Market President in the Capital Region and recipient of 2018 Woman of Distinction Award; Elizabeth Bracken-Thompson, Partner Thompson & Bender, presenter and last year’s award recipient.

Two powerful women who have used their celebrated careers in finance and the media to help other women, were the featured guests on Dec. 4 when the United Way Women’s Leadership Council held its 6th Annual Celebration of Women in Philanthropy “Take a Walk in Her Shoes” Breakfast to benefit the United Way of Westchester and Putnam. The event, which was held at Abigail Kirsch at Tappan Hill in Tarrytown, recognized and reinforced the work of women helping to lift up women and children living on the financial edge in Westchester and Putnam counties.

Ruth Mahoney, KeyBank’s Market President in the Capital Region, was presented with the 2018 Woman of Distinction Award for community service. Mahoney, a former longtime Ossining resident, is a board member of the United Way of New York State and a founding member of UWWP’s Women’s Leadership Council.

The morning’s keynote speaker was former NBC Today show anchor and Fox News and Business News executive Alexis Glick, CEO of GENYOUth, a nonprofit organization dedicated to nurturing child health and wellness in partnership with the National Football League and the National Dairy Council.

Alana Sweeny, President and CEO of United Way of Westchester and Putnam, took the opportunity to remind the audience that despite living in one of the nation’s most affluent communities, 4-in-10 people in Westchester and Putnam live on the financial edge. The United Way, she said, is working to shift this reality through its programs to educate and empower low-income women and their children.

“A car repair, a cold snap, an outage that spoils the family’s groceries in the fridge, a missed shift to finally see the doctor can mean a further slip, a further slide into peril,’’ she said. “And our latest wave of research shows the problem is getting worse in our counties, not better. Our so called ‘recovery’ is happening as more and more families like this fall behind…and now comes winter.”

The research that Sweeney was referring to is the United Way’s ALICE report (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) which was released this fall as a follow up to its original 2016 report looking at the struggles of working families. The updated report showed that single mothers are one of the hardest hit groups with 75 percent in Westchester and Putnam not earning enough to make ends meet.

Sweeny thanked honoree Mahoney for the integral role she played in the study, which has helped raise awareness of the problem. She also thanked local corporate sponsors PepsiCo, IBM, Key Bank and their women leaders for supporting UWWP’s Teach me to Fish and Financial Wellness programs.

“Our honoree, Ruth Mahoney, and KeyBank, thank you for your original driving force in supporting the ALICE project research for New York State – without that insight, we might well still be in the dark,’’ Sweeny said.  “Principled women….in powerful places, putting themselves on the line…putting their corporations and institutions on the line for other women and their children. We are grateful.”

Elizabeth Bracken-Thompson, a partner at Thompson & Bender, founding member of the Women’s Leadership Council and last year’s honoree, presented the award to Mahoney.

“I never in a million years thought I would be standing here accepting this award,” said Mahoney. She thanked the United Way for “bringing people together to collaborate and make sure the resources are there” for those in need. She added, “We have an obligation to pay to it forward.”

In an inspiring speech about what is possible, Bronxville resident Alexis Glick charted her unlikely rise from the daughter of working parents living in a Stuyvesant Housing Project, to top Wall Street analyst and media executive. Glick said she had been able to succeed, in part, because she spoke up and volunteered herself whenever a challenge arose. In particular, she spoke to a group of young women from Alexander Hamilton High School in Elmsford who were in the audience, encouraging them to reach for their dreams. “You can be the change you want to see in the world,” she said.

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About the Author: Alain Begun