Community Impact Awardees 2023 Announced

Submitted by Elisabeth on Thu, 05/25/2023 - 11:18am
Community Impact Awards


“Celebrating individuals and our partners is in our DNA at United Way,” said Dan Leroy, President and CEO of United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County. “We know that times are tough for a lot of us right now. So when people muster the energy to lift their voices and raise their hands to champion our work, it is important to take a moment to celebrate them because we know that our community is so much stronger as a result.”

Thank you to all who attended the Awards Dinner and a special thanks to our event sponsors: DMJPS, Asheville Regional Airports, Hatchworks, Northwestern Mutual, and AB Tech. And to our Annual Live United Sponsors: Eaton and Mission Health. 



Shelia Christofalos | Women United Taylor Foss Award

The Women United Award was established in 2017 to recognize a member of Women United’s giving society who demonstrates extraordinary commitment to United Way’s philanthropic mission. In 2018, the award was officially renamed the “Women United Taylor Foss Award” in order to celebrate the group’s founder and honor Taylor’s legacy in perpetuity.

Shelia embodies the spirit of Women United by demonstrating a deep commitment to social justice, equity, and inclusion. 

Shelia has served on the Peaks Committee, chair of Resource Development, and our board of directors. She has knocked on doors and made fundraising and friend-raising calls on our behalf. She has rolled up her sleeves anytime we have a school supply drive or Holiday Book Drive. And this woman ALWAYS packs her Live United t-shirt or ball cap on every trip she takes and makes sure to tag us on Facebook to let us know she’s still thinking about us, even as far away as Australia!

Shelia is a leader who inspires and empowers others to join the movement and in doing so makes a difference in the lives of students and families in Buncombe County.

“I deeply believe that our United Way is providing the courageous leadership that our community needs to support and grow ALL students. This is our moment to come together with focus, conviction, and partnership to usher in a new era of belonging and prosperity for our youth. It is an honor to work alongside others that share this vision and love for our community.”

Pictured: Dan Leroy, Shelia Christofalos, and Taylor Foss


Insurance Service of Asheville | Spirit of the Mountains 

This award recognizes a business that is ‘all-in’ in its support of the community and United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County, generating impact through its financial investments, leadership and employee engagement, and volunteer participation.


ISA was founded in 1958 by Jimbo’s dad and from the start the company he founded has embodied a true spirit of community and giving back. In fact, as we dug into the digital archives at the Asheville Citizen-Times for our Centennial Celebration, we found so many moments where the Stickney family and Insurance Service of Asheville were front and center in supporting our work. Additionally, over their many years of support, ISA and the Stickney family have raised well over $500,000 on behalf of our community!  WOW!  

Today, we see their spirit shine through in many ways here in our community through strong financial commitments and a robust culture of volunteerism. And during our Centennial, Jimbo stepped up as a leader and champion in some big ways that helped us secure the funding we will need to install an elevator in our building. Having his support allows us to create a more accessible and welcoming space for all who visit.

When asked WHY United Way, Jimbo states  “Our lifelong work has been in this town and community that we love. The best way for us to support our fellow citizens is through United Way, which best promotes a diverse and consistent range of needed services”.

Pictured: Jimbo Stickney and Dakota Owenby


Katie Price | Hands On Volunteer of the Year

Community volunteers have always been the lifeblood of this organization and so many of our partners. This award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding volunteerism and an extraordinary commitment to the community through United Way.


Leveraging the 100 Acts of Service Challenge during United Way’s centennial year, Katie has mobilized Northwestern Mutual’s Asheville team to volunteer regularly with community partners through Hands On Asheville Buncombe. 

Since June of 2021, Katie has led her team to collectively give back over 160 hours of volunteer time directly to United Way and our partners. Participating in United Way-sponsored events, such as the School Supply Drive, Community Nights, setting up for our Centennial celebration, and the inaugural United for Youth Block party, if you call Katie with a volunteer request, she will recruit and mobilize a team EVERY TIME. 

With a deep passion for elevating student and family success through volunteerism, she also serves on several of our partner’s boards and various committees and remains committed to showing up and mobilizing others to build a community that is free of poverty and injustice for current and future generations. 

In Katie’s words, “Time spent volunteering is always time well spent, especially when you partner with United Way. They do an excellent job of identifying community needs and mobilizing teams to lend a helping hand. I want to thank all of those that volunteered along with me, especially my Northwestern Mutual family. We’ve experienced the ripple effect of giving back—serving others has brought us together more as a team!”

Pictured: Katie Price


Harrah’s Cherokee Center | Gamechanger Award 

This award recognizes an individual or business that embraces United Way’s Guiding Principles and the community school strategy by demonstrating outstanding leadership in improving systems for equitable student learning and educational excellence. 


During the first months of the pandemic, Harrah’s Cherokee Center and staff were paramount to United Way’s ability to quickly pivot the School Supply Drive, at a time when large-scale events were almost completely canceled and safety was our biggest concern. 

Since the summer of 2020, Harrah’s Cherokee Center has continued to grant their space, amenities, and staff time to ensure the Pack and Sort event that concludes the drive is a success. To give you a better picture of what this looks like - annually, 100 volunteers organize approximately 45,000 individual school supplies and pack over 2300 backpacks with those supplies. After the backpacks are packed,  partners drive into the event center to pick up these backpacks to pass out to students in their programs and schools. 

Not only did Harrah’s agree to allow us to host the Pack and Sort but they did so with the utmost customer service and flexibility and showed their support for students and support of United Way. 

Chris Corl, Director of Harrah’s, says, “For over 80 years, Harrah’s Cherokee Center has served as a beacon of community spirit and gathering in Buncombe County. We continue this same spirit of togetherness by being able to partner with the United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County annually to facilitate school supplies to our area youth and students. These school supplies and backpacks can make a world of difference to our future leaders and we are honored that we have an opportunity to be a part of that for them.” 

Pictured: Chris Corl and Chastity Wilson


Velene Fagan | Live United Award 

This award recognizes an individual whose exceptional leadership, passion, and engagement is improving the lives of individuals and families in our community today and for future generations. This award recognizes someone who speaks out on behalf of or educates others on issues that support and advance United Way’s work with exceptional adherence to specific values or standards, such as diversity, respect, creativity, or innovation.


We first met Velene in 2018 when she joined the Asheville Middle School Resource Team, sharing valuable parent perspectives as the team worked on increasing community engagement at the school. While her son attended AMS Velene showed up for nearly every Resource Team meeting and Homework Diner. 

In February of 2020, Velene joined the United for Youth Leadership Team joining a community-wide effort to craft the bold community goal and partnership agreement. She has now served on the leadership team for 3 years. Velene is a student-centered, grounding, and driving force for bold goal.

During the pandemic, when United Way was hosting weekly United for Youth meetings via Zoom to keep the network partners in close communication, Velene was there. And today she’s there for the monthly in-person check-ins helping to guide a community-wide Youth Leadership Challenge.

As you can see, has been a steady volunteer and champion of Community Schools, but she’s also participated in a series of community conversations that helped us design a new pilot for community-led grant-making. She’s an active social media champion and has regularly donated to our work.

But the biggest testimony to the power of what Velene brings to our community is her own words: 

“I am compelled to contribute to and support my community in all the ways that I am able because of the example that I received from my mother and grandmother. These women lived to be of service to others and their focus was building strong foundations through education. I didn’t exactly understand until I became a parent, and aunt and a godparent. It clicked that a village is necessary and that the village will include people around you that can be relied upon. I want to be reliable. I want to truly contribute. I want to show up in a tangible way. The success of each child feels like success to me."

Pictured: Dan Leroy and Velene Fagan


Elizabeth Kelly | The Inaugural Circle of Hope Award 

This award recognizes a nonprofit professional for their extraordinary leadership, creativity, and compassion during a pivotal moment in their organization, our collective history, or over the course of their career. 


Elizabeth Kelly has served as our 211 Call Center Manager for 14 years. She has been a constant during 4 center director transitions, she’s helped specialists cope with the flood of calls during times of economic turmoil and during our designation as a crisis line by the governor during hurricanes, floods, and a worldwide pandemic.

Elizabeth’s dedication and commitment to our community did not live inside the real and virtual walls of the call center. She made our whole organization stronger. She called us out and called us in when we needed to be more inclusive in our decision-making. She never let us forget how organizational decisions impacted our part-time team and remote members. She was unwavering in her belief in the power of giving every caller the space to show up as their whole true self, even if at that moment their true self was scared, angry, or hurt. And she believed that every caller deserved to have the space to tell their whole story and feel heard. 

“Being part of 211 has been a great and deeply felt Joy! I had the honor the work alongside the most courageous, skilled, heart-led and dedicated human beings. They generated connection, support, respect, and kindness for each other and our community. It was inspiring to work with them to bring love into the world! I am forever grateful for all that I learned and for the sense of belonging and support I felt and that we brought to others.”

Pictured: NC 211 team members flank Elizabeth Kelly. From left to right: Gwen Jones, Kim Hughes, Brandi Sitton, Elizabeth Kelly, Sarah Roth, and David Rogers