For this week’s segment of Hometown Heroes, AY About You sits down with Jennifer Boyett, Executive Director of the United Way of Central Arkansas.
Boyett is a Conway native and a graduate of UCA (2001) and UALR (2005). She spent the first 19 years of her career in higher education first at UCA (2001-2013) and then at Henderson State University (2013-2020). In late 2019, Boyett learned that the United Way of Central Arkansas was seeking an executive director, and knew that it would allow her and her family a chance to return to their hometown, so she applied and was offered the position. Boyett started in February of last year and had the opportunity to build a whole new team for our organization. She is married to Corey Boyett, who works for the State of Arkansas, and the two have a 10-year-old son, Hunter, who just completed 4th grade at Ellen Smith Elementary. Boyett’s hobbies are biking, running, reading and crocheting.
The United Way is a worldwide non-profit organization that’s been around since 1887. The United Way of Central Arkansas, formerly United Way of Faulkner County, has been in existence for more than 60 years.
“We currently serve Faulkner, Conway, Perry and Van Buren counties. We have a 25-member board of directors and four employees. The United Way aims to serve the needs in our community,” Boyett explains. “We go into local workplaces and raise funds that are given as grants to local nonprofits. We focus our grants on programs that are serving basic needs and making positive change in the areas of health, education and financial stability. We like to collaborate and be involved with our nonprofit partners. It is imperative that local nonprofits work together. It not only ensures our collective success, but also makes a stronger impact on the community.”
Boyett explains how she was able to get involved with the organization.
“I have seen the incredible impact of philanthropy through my work in higher education, so when I had the opportunity to come back home to Conway and work with an organization raising funds to support nonprofits in my hometown, I knew this was what I wanted to do,” Boyett says. “Giving back is so important and it’s something everyone can do, whether that’s giving your time, your money or your expertise. I am blessed to have the opportunity to share my expertise with this incredible organization. I believe in it so much that I invest my hard-earned dollars back into the community through the United Way. I also enjoy having the opportunity to volunteer with our partner organizations. “
Of course, the organization has had some challenges to tackle.
“We had to change our business operations in ways we never expected. For example, we were not allowed to go into most workplaces, so instead of going in person and taking packets with paper pledge forms, we set up an entirely online campaign. We had to make our annual Turkey Trot 5K a virtual race last year and some events we had to put on hold indefinitely. And of course, we all have become proficient hosting online meetings.”
The pandemic also offered opportunities to grow through challenges.
“One of our first efforts was to collaborate with the Arkansas Community Foundation affiliates in our area and a few local businesses to raise funds for grants that were offered to help keep our nonprofits open so they could serve clients in this strange time of need. In addition to providing these microgrants, we were helping our partners source face masks, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and toilet paper just so they could keep doing their work,” Boyett shares. “We also soon discovered that people in our communities were struggling to pay rent and utilities because many workplaces closed, so we partnered with several local nonprofits and raised more than $100,000 that we were able to use to pay rent and utilities for families in need.”
Boyett shares some of the long term goals that she has for the United Way.
“In five years, I want to be leading the United Way of Central Arkansas’ efforts to have its largest campaign ever so that we can grant out more support to our nonprofits and provide assistance to every organization in need. I see our organization having stronger ties to our neighboring counties: Conway, Perry and Van Buren. I want everyone in our community to know that the United Way of Central Arkansas is working to build a better tomorrow and we can only do that with their help.”
In late July, the United Way of Central Arkansas will host their Stuff the Bus School Supply Drive where the organization collects much-needed school supplies for school districts within their service area. The organization is also planning their annual Turkey Trot 5K for Thanksgiving Day. They will continue to share information about these and all of these events on their Facebook page and their website.