Local United Way worker one of 26 in world chosen for prestigious post

Local United Way worker one of 26 in world chosen for prestigious post

March 22nd, 2011 by Susan Pierce in Life Entertainment

Jonathan Gibbons has learned the work of United Way of Greater Chattanooga from the outside in.

Beginning as a volunteer in East Lake's Building Stable Lives project, he later served as a loaned executive during the 2009 capital campaign. Now, he is on staff as United Way associate campaign director.

He's looking at United Way's potential global impact. Gibbons is one of 26 United Way staff members in the world selected for United Way's elite Global Resident Fellows Program.

Working with peers from around the world is an easy fit for this 25-year-old, who is fluent in three languages and has taught English in France and Argentina.

The Global Resident Fellows Program is designed to be a talent identification and development program for young professionals, according to the United Way.

Fellows, working with United Way Worldwide staff, tackle business challenges. Their goal is to come up with results that will advance the common good.

"We are very fortunate to have someone like Jonathan at our United Way," said Brent Taylor, local United Way vice president of resource development.

Gibbons talked about his challenge ahead.

Q. How are the fellows selected?

A. United Way has a worldwide system of more than 1,800 organizations in 40 countries. Every United Way may submit employee applications from within its organization for consideration.

Q. With fellows spread around the world, how do you work together?

A. We meet three times (across the country) during the fellowship year. We divided into clusters of four to six members. We address projects that look at how we can help United Way as a global organization serve our local communities. I am working with fellows from Perth, Australia, United Way of Colombia, New York City and Detroit.

At the end of the fellowship we will give a presentation to the entire United Way Worldwide audience.

Q. Can you give an example of issues discussed?

A. United Way of Japan is known as the Community Chest of Japan. We are looking at how we work together in spite of the fact we may have different names.

Q. What are your selling points about United Way of Chattanooga?

A. We're fortunate to be in a generous community. The recession hit everyone hard ... but thanks to great community spirit, we were able to increase our campaign this year. (The 2010 campaign goal was $11.8 million, and $11,950,726 was collected.)

I let people know United Way works to make a better community for us all. We focus on the three building blocks of a stable community: economic/income stability, education and supporting those who are most vulnerable in order to help them live stable lives.

Everyone knows we do good things, but, for instance, they might not realize the Imagination Library program receives funding from United Way or that if they have a human services emergency, that there is help at 2-1-1.

Contact Susan Pierce at spierce@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6284.