Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee: The First Year

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee: The First Year

By: Lorri Foster & Brandon Fulk

It was before the death of George Floyd when United Way of Greater Lafayette’s Board of Directors began to pull together a group of community members to form a new committee tasked with tackling concerns surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion.   

 Angelique Zobitz is no stranger to going above and beyond in the community, having been a longtime volunteer and member of UWGL ’s Community Investment Committee. She served as the 2020 co-chair of the DEI Committee.  “The DEI committee was created to impact how we look at the intersection of issues touched by social justice in the Greater Lafayette community.” Zobitz says. “When we talk about equity, we talk about ensuring that there are services and opportunities available to all individuals that allows them to live well.” 

After that tragic day on May 25, 2020, organized protests gathered in communities across the globe and a call to act was everywhere. Organizations and individuals were now looking to United Way of Greater Lafayette and asking, “how can I help?” The group knew it was time to move conversations into action starting with a deep dive into United Way’s internal protocols and procedures with a goal of exemplifying best practices for their funded partners and bringing community collaborative efforts together around social justice. It was time to better define the committee’s mission and develop strategies for success.  

Now a year later, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee looks to continue to grow, recruiting new faces to be a part of the conversations and continue to move our community forward. Their mission is to educate, equip, and activate community members and partners to create an equitable, respectful and opportunity-filled community for everyone.As a long-time resident of the Lafayette community, I love living here and want others to experience the community as I do. Therefore, I am always troubled when I hear that some see it is unwelcoming or unjust.  I volunteered for the DEI committee because I believe in United Way’s ability to improve our community through its programs, leadership, and influence and see this work as a natural extension of our mission,” said Laura Downey, UWGL Board President.  

Jesse Moore, retired Purdue University Director of Diversity Supplier and committee member, believes this work is a catalyst for reaching a new generation of community leaders. “I’m not going to live forever,” Moore says. “That’s just a reality we all should have. If we’re not going to live forever, and we’re doing something that’s important, then we need to train people with what knowledge we have so that they can take it on even further. There are some long-term needs in our community, especially in our Black and Brown communities: Health, in addition to education, and housing.” Moore hopes the strategies developed will directly address these needs.  

The Strategic Plan is broken down into four parts covering the bases of varying community needs.  

  1. Direct funding that builds equity.  
  2. Facilitate engagement at the community level. 
  3. Equip our partners in the non-profit community to improve their outreach efforts and recruit diverse leadership. 
  4. Assess internal DEI strategies and establishing professional training through a DEI lens. 

Long lasting change cannot happen without resources, so the committee spent considerable hours thinking about how to “put our money where our mouth is”, according to Board President, Laura Downey.   To that end, United Way of Greater Lafayette is excited to announce the Sarah Rounds Price Equity Fund. The late Sarah Rounds Price dedicated her time, talent, and treasures to making her Greater Lafayette community a better place to live for all. This fund will be used to directly spark innovation and build connections to carry out the mission of the DEI Committee. Funds will incentivize non-profits to think outside of the box to develop or expand programs that will foster inclusivity and celebrate various cultural perspectives while looking for special opportunities to bridge gaps created by systematic shortcomings. Through the combination of grants and private donations, the Sarah Rounds Price Fund opens for public contributions with $70,000.  

The work doesn’t stop there. Over the past year, United Way of Greater Lafayette hosted over 40 community conversations using the Harwood method which brings in real life experiences and helps to illuminate themes around the hopes and aspirations individuals have for a better community.   This round of conversation was strategically designed to reach populations that have not been at the table in the past. United Way of Greater Lafayette’s DEI Committee encourages continued community participation in dialogues and solution development  

UWGL CEO  Michael Budd feels inspired by the momentum and seeing new people interacting in this space I want our community to be a welcoming place for all, but my experiences are not the same as others in our community. We need to engage, listen, and respond in a way that acknowledges multiple experiences and creates space for healing,” Budd says. “We’re asking the community to tell us what that looks like. What will it take to make sure everyone knows they are valued in the Greater Lafayette community?”  

 Do you have or know of a program that is directly addressing the growing DEI needs of our community? Fill out a Request for Information form to learn more about how you can be a part of the solution and continue fulfilling the mission. To learn more about Sarah Rounds Price or to make a contribution visit https://uwlafayette.org/equity-fund/