Alexa McGriff, our Director of Marketing and Direct Programs is celebrating her 1 year anniversary as a member of the United Way of Northwest Arkansas team. She has grown to be a leader not only within United Way, but within the community. Alexa has accomplished a tremendous amount in her first year. Most notably, Alexa is the mastermind behind “Brick by Brick”, a phrase that resonates throughout the United Way campaign and paints the picture for how our community can be a part of helping to provide a pathway out of poverty for children in Northwest Arkansas. We asked Alexa to give us a little insight on her first year at United Way and how she came up with the idea of “Brick by Brick”.
-Kelsey Brock, Associate Manager, Marketing & Direct Programs
If you had to describe your first year at United Way in one word, what would it be?
You have been at United Way for a year now, what continues to motivate you as a member of the staff?
My main motivation is the idea that the work that we’re doing is actually impacting the lives of people in need. When things get stressful, or crazy, or overwhelming, I always come back to that idea. What I’m contributing as a member of this team is making a difference in the larger scheme of things. I couldn’t find a better motivation than that!
What is your hope for United Way as you begin your second year?
My hope is to see United Way continue to position itself as a leader in the charge to get children out of poverty in Northwest Arkansas. I would like to see us partner with all of the key stakeholders and work to bring the community together to make a collective impact on the issue of children living in poverty. I hope that people start to know not only that there’s a United Way in Northwest Arkansas, but that people know WHAT United Way does and believe so strongly in it that they find a way to join us in this effort!
Also, just a “if I lived in an ideal world” dream – if every person in Northwest Arkansas (500,000) gave $1 per week to United Way, we would have $26 million to invest back into programs in our community. Think how much of an impact $26 million could make in the lives of people in need! So I’d love to see everyone do that!
What is one of the most powerful things you have learned this year?
I learned that we have 26,000 children that live in poverty in NWA. I always knew that some people were struggling in our community, but had no idea the scope of the issue. 26,000 children – that’s 1 in 4. That’s enough children to fill up 361 school buses! THAT IS RIDICULOUS! It’s heartbreaking and I hope that we can do all we can to change the statistics.
What has been one of your favorite things to work on this year?
My favorite thing to work on this year was the Children Living in Poverty Summit. When I started working here, I immediately was able to jump in and help plan the event. I joined the planning committee and worked closely with Holly Hill and Kim Johnson to execute the event. From a marketing standpoint, the event was extremely successful at educating the community on the issue of children living in poverty, getting people to attend, and getting them to engage with the event online. In fact, on that day, #childpovertyNWA was trending locally (the hashtag we used at the event)! That was a small marketing win for me and I very much enjoyed seeing over 300 people come together to learn how to help get children out of poverty! It was a moving experience.
Fill the Bus was a CLOSE second to the Summit. I was moved at the generous hearts of NWA residents who donated over 110,000 supplies to kids in need. How amazing to live amongst such a giving community of people?
Are there any “feel good” stories that stick out to you from the past year?
Two things stick out to me:
- I attended the Children’s Advocacy Center dinner within my first month at United Way NWA. I vividly remember the Executive Director speaking about fundraising, and she said that the only check they know for a fact that they’ll receive every month is from United Way NWA, and that that helps them keep their doors open. Knowing that our work was that important our partner agencies made it that much more meaningful to me.
- In the past six months, I’ve developed a friendship with a girl who I met through a mutual friend. In that time, she’s seen things I’ve posted on social media about the work that we do at United Way NWA. She ended up signing up to volunteer at Fill the Bus, and enjoyed it so much that she also signed up to attend our Campaign Kickoff. After the kickoff, she sent me this message on Facebook: “Hey Alexa!…I really enjoyed being at the Kick Off this morning. Watching the statisticks video, I was teary eyed and choked up. Twenty something years ago that was me. I was that homeless kid, living in a tent on the river. I was living in homes with no electricity and no running water. The only food we had was from assistance. I kept thinking about all these sweet babies living that way now. I’m probably being being too emotional about it, but these kids are my heart. You don’t know how honored I am to get to play a part in serving them. It’s all I’ve been talking about to my friends and family…”. Seeing her passion for this work is so moving – it motivates me to keep going!
How did you get to the “Brick by Brick” idea?
When our Board determined that children living in poverty was going to be our primary focus, with a bold goal of providing a pathway out of poverty for every child, I immediately began to imagine what that would look like if it was a physical pathway. A physical brick pathway needs all the pieces to be laid in, or you have holes that cause bumpy travel. So each person who contributes to building this pathway for children is contributing a figurative “brick”, and “brick by brick”, we’ll build this pathway together as a community. Each brick is important – it represents the donation you gave, or the time you volunteered, or the story you shared with those who didn’t know about these kids. When you Give, Advocate, or Volunteer, you’re laying your brick on the pathway that will get children out of poverty. Let’s do ths all together!
Thanks for a great year of service, Alexa!