United Way of Greater Cincinnati received a donation of 1 million dollars from former Cincinnati resident, board member, and corporate executive Dave Walker and his wife, Debbie. Dave and Debbie have retired and relocated to Florida but remain heavily involved with the work of our local United Way, as well as United Way Suncoast. The gift has been entrusted to the organization’s Foundation and will be designated to a longtime partner who is paramount in the execution of childhood readiness, Every Child Succeeds.
“We are truly grateful for their trust in us and commitment to our community’s future. The Walkers believe in the integrity of United Way of Greater Cincinnati so much that they want us to be the fiscal agents of this gift. They are committed to join in the fight against poverty, with a focus of early childhood support. What better organization than Every Child Succeeds?” said Mary Ann Remke, Director of Planned Giving at United Way. Remke also oversees the work of the Foundation.
We spoke with Dave about his desire to elevate the importance of United Way as a pillar of collective generosity for the community, and his passion for early childhood education.
United Way of Greater Cincinnati: You've been engaged with United Way for almost 40 years - what an incredible relationship! Why did you make the decision to remain involved with United Way and to dedicate your resources to the organization?
Dave Walker: I have been involved with United Way in several locations over the last 25 years as a volunteer and board member. While I have done some volunteer work and donating to other non-profits, United Way has been a constant for me over the years because Debbie and I very much believe in the quality, capability, and mission of the organization. I have seen and participated in the work of United Way over the years. The impact United Way has in our communities is focused on less fortunate people and it is incredibly important.
UWGC: How important is it to invest in early childhood education and opportunities, such as the programming offered through Every Child Succeeds?
Walker: Neither Debbie nor I grew up in wealthy families. Our grandparents generally didn’t finish high school and our parents mostly graduated from high school but didn’t have much educational opportunity beyond that. My father was a welder and a steelworker and Debbie’s father did general labor on the railroad. For our generation, the key to upward mobility and a better life was the opportunity to get a good education and to use that education to get a good job. We were fortunate in having those opportunities.
UWGC: What would you say to the Greater Cincinnati community to encourage them to get involved with the work of United Way?
Walker: The United Way of Greater Cincinnati and United Way Suncoast (based in Tampa) are great examples of organizations which understand many of the issues low-income households face. They have the resources and expertise to attract funding and convene other partners in the community to help improve the situation. I’ll give a few examples:
United Way organizes and runs voluntary income tax preparation programs in each community which enable low-income households to not only avoid fees but also claim millions of dollars each year in federal tax credits available to them.
United Ways across the country have developed and publicized the ALICE report which captures and highlights the issues low income employed people face in making a living. This report has become a centerpiece for community-wide discussion and action on the issues across the nation. Only United Way could have done this so well.
United Way of Greater Cincinnati funded and conducted the work in the late 1990’s which resulted in the formation of Every Child Succeeds in 1999. The United Way was able to recruit excellent partners in Children’s Hospital and the Community Action Agency. To this day, UWGC is by far the largest private funder of ECS.
UWGC: What was the driving force behind your decision to allow the United Way Foundation to serve as the fiscal agent for your gift?
Walker: We have enormous trust and respect for UWGC and ECS and the two organizations have had an excellent partnership for many years. So, we could have given the money directly to either organization. In this case, we felt that involving UWGC in this gift and designating it to ECS would further cement the relationship between the two organizations and hopefully attract other donors to both organizations by highlighting their work and capabilities.
We have separately committed to making a legacy gift to UWGC of at least $1 million as part of our estate plan. So, we are fully committed to both organizations.
UWGC: What do you hope your legacy will be when it comes to being engaged with United Way?
Walker: I am a firm believer that people with business skills should become involved in helping their communities become a better place to live. This value was impressed upon me during my career at P&G. But sometimes, business people leave some of their smarts and their passion at the door when they get involved in volunteer work. We accept conditions in our communities which are not acceptable - assuming the problems are just too big and too persistent to be solved. I don’t accept that - never have and never will. So, I hope my legacy in my involvement with the United Way is that I pushed myself and everyone else around me to make a larger difference than we have before.