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More than 500 of Baltimore’s Women Leaders Celebrate the Power of Storytelling to Effect Change at United Way of Central Maryland’s 2018 Women’s Forum

March 2, 2021

Baltimore, MD (March 23, 2018) – Despite the recent spring snowstorm, school closures and icy roads, more than 500 of Baltimore’s most influential women joined United Way of Central Maryland’s Women United members on Thursday to participate in the 2018 Women’s Forum. During the sold-out event, dynamic business and community leaders celebrated the power of storytelling and discussed how thoughtful conversations about our own stories can effect positive change. Participants also engaged in inspiring conversations around education and how our own stories about race, inclusion and identity can empower others.

Michele Norris, a Peabody Award-winning journalist and founder of The Race Card Project, led the audience in an activity, engaging people to talk across differences and examining deeply entrenched narratives that define or confine communities. The program concluded with a keynote speech from author and inspirational speaker Liz Murray, who overcame homelessness during high school to be accepted by Harvard University. Hosted at Morgan State University’s Calvin & Tina Tyler Ballroom, the Forum is the Women United group’s signature event to ignite the power of women to make a difference in lives across the region.

“The apartment that we lived in deteriorated over time — like your house would if you didn’t take your garbage out for two whole months — there was trash all over the floor, broken windows from arguments, our heads were covered in lice and we were chronically truant. Unfortunately, my experience is not a unique experience, this is a common experience and our kids in this country are up against a lot today,” Murray told the crowd. “I implore you from my heart to yours to ask yourself ‘who can you be the difference for?’ What I’ve learned throughout my life is that our destinies are all connected. Someone helped me because someone helped them. Today, you can help change someone’s life.”

The event also raised more than $30,000 to support United Way’s On Track 4 Success early intervention education program that helps keep young students on track to graduate high school. Based on research by The Johns Hopkins University Everyone Graduates Center, the program serves students and teachers in three area schools: Maree G. Farring Elementary/Middle School and Benjamin Franklin High School in South Baltimore, and Meade Middle School in Anne Arundel County.

Women United is a dynamic group of more than 1,400 local women committed to helping central Maryland families facing poverty through volunteering, advocacy, networking and educational events.

“I came to this event today looking to share experiences with other women living in the Baltimore region who were looking to make a real difference in our local community,” said Baltimore Metropolitan Council’s Regina Aris and Women’s Forum attendee. “I was blown away by today’s speeches and activities – Liz brought me to tears sharing her story – and I’m inspired to move forward with my life trying to make a positive change in our community. We all learned today that action is better than inaction, even if it’s small. You don’t have to go out and do something big to make a difference in someone’s life.”

“We are a group of women who are determined to improve lives — one community, one family, one person at a time,” said Lori Villegas, United Way of Central Maryland’s Women United Chair and senior vice president, wealth advisor at Morgan Stanley. “Today’s event is a reminder of the work that needs to be done in our neighborhoods. We will continue working together to ensure the discussions held today help drive meaningful, positive change in our region.”

United Way of Central Maryland’s Women United is part of a global powerhouse of 70,000 women leaders in 160 communities across six countries who have raised and invested more than $1 billion since 2002 to create lasting change that lifts up entire communities.

About United Way of Central Maryland

United Way of Central Maryland fights for the education, employment, housing and health of every person in every community. For more than 90 years, United Way of Central Maryland has been improving lives in the communities it serves – Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard Counties, and Baltimore City – through programs like its 15 Family Stability sites that prevent homelessness and help families achieve self-sufficiency, and On Track 4 Success, a program in select schools throughout the region that identifies and helps young students stay on track to graduate high school

In January 2017, United Ways in Maryland released the ALICE® Report, revealing that more than a third of Maryland households – nearly 750,000 – either live in poverty, or qualify at or below the ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) threshold. United Way of Central Maryland fights to stabilize these ALICE residents and those that fall below the Federal Poverty Level.

In addition to the ALICE Report, United Way’s work is supported by the 2-1-1 Maryland United Way Helpline, a 24-hour, 7-day a week service that has provided information and referrals on health and human service needs for more than 10 years. To learn more about the United Way of Central Maryland, visit



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