End Of Year Message from our CEO Dan Leroy


I recently came across an end-of-year letter that David Bailey, our former CEO, wrote. In it, he talked about the faith and cultural celebrations like Bodhi Day, the feast day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas, and Kwanza, and the role that light—a light that helps us during a dark time or leads us onto a new path—plays in many of them. 
We’ve been through a lot these last few years, individually and as a global community. We are not out of the woods and there is still so much work to do, but it is so important that we celebrate even the smallest sources of light and stay connected to those things that give us hope, inspiration, and joy. 


Here are just a few highlights from 2021 that I am particularly proud of and which give me hope:


We all know how crucial facts are during a crisis. So when the pandemic hit, NC 211, United Way’s 24/7 information and referral service, was ready to scale up and serve our neighbors. I could share stats on call volume, which literally doubled as a result of the pandemic, or the related trends, but we can never forget that behind every call there are people, navigating tough issues, emotions, and limited resources. And in this, I am constantly struck by the care and compassion of my colleagues. Here is just one example:

“My last caller thought I had ended the call and I heard her say, ‘He was so lovely. I wish all people were like him.’ This made my day! How’d we get there? Patience, understanding, empathy, and most importantly for me is the truth...making sure the callers are being heard and giving them hope but not giving them definites unless I know for sure. I've had more people tell me ‘thank you’ for saying ‘I don't know’ or ‘I can't answer that.’ Valid information is key. They are happy I've taken the time to check and explain things, even if there is no quick fix. Steady on. Lead with love.”


This year our partners built an important foundation for our collective work and, with input from local youth, crafted a new name—United for Youth—along with a Vision, Mission, and BOLD Community Goal: 

Our Vision: ALL children and youth learn, grow, and thrive in a vibrant, healthy, and connected community.

Our Mission: To actively identify and remove barriers to opportunity and co-create solutions that support student success.

Our Goal: By 2035, ALL Asheville City and Buncombe County students graduate from high school ready and fully prepared to pursue their goals and dreams.

They also designed a Partnership Agreement that will serve as a tool to align our commitments and hold ourselves accountable to meeting this vision, mission, and bold community goal.

I’m happy to let you know that 16 partners have already signed the agreement, with several others at various stages of consideration. 


And finally, this year we expanded our support to serve a total of 7 Community Schools. In addition to Asheville, Enka, Erwin, Owen, and Reynolds Middle Schools, we placed two new coordinators  at North Buncombe Middle and Asheville High/SILSA and invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in community partners in all seven school communities 

I am also thrilled to let you know that, in partnership with Asheville City Schools, Buncombe County Schools, MAHEC, Buncombe County Health and Human Services, and Blue Ridge Health, we will launch two School-Based Health Centers in 2022. Services at these clinics will include physical, mental, and behavioral health care, with TeleHealth visits at the beginning of the new year and in-person services starting in the spring.

Let’s Stay United

These are the impacts your gifts help make possible. We can only succeed as a community if we continue to work together, and I hope you will continue to do so alongside United Way and our partners. 

As we enter this season and look ahead to a new year, all of us here at United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County want to thank you for serving as a light for this community. Our wish for you is that you experience love and light in your own life in the coming days.

Onward United,