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United Way toasts Rising Leaders

Jerry Maier and Erika Woodall talk about volunteerism. Jerry Maier and Erika Woodall talk about volunteerism.

Henderson County's up-and-coming leaders in business and civic life graduated from a program that teaches about non-profit service and immediately went on job interviews.


After eight months of education and community service, nineteen members of United Way of Henderson County’s Rising Leaders Program graduated Tuesday night. The agency toasted the graduates with beer and wine at Appalachian Craft Brewery and hosted a "speed dating" event designed to unite eager new volunteers with area non-profit agencies.

"I think it was amazing to go through a program where they train young people to serve and to meet the needs of the non-profits we're serving," said Erika Woodall, administrator of Mills River United Methodist Church and a graduate of the Rising Leaders program.

Graduates and agency directors participated in a “speed-dating” activity to explore volunteer opportunities at the various non-profits. During fast-paced, two minute conversations, Rising Leaders d introduce themselves, and shared the interests and the skills that they will bring to non-profit service. Agency Directors will explain the work that their organizations do, and hopefully, some “matches” will be made.

Launched last September, this was the pilot year of the Rising Leaders Program, sponsored by Friday Staffing. United Way of Henderson County (UWHC) created the free program as a direct response to a need that many Henderson County non-profit agencies had expressed — a need for access to the next generation of board members and key volunteers.

Rising Leaders participants, young professionals representing a wide variety of Henderson County businesses and organizations, received training in the essential knowledge and skills for board service: the demographics and needs of our community; the principles of governance and management of a non-profit; the rights and responsibilities of board members; best practices of financial and legal leadership; the basics of fundraising; and the power of advocacy. Participants also collectively completed over 400 hours of community service within Henderson County during the program, volunteering with American Red Cross, Mainstay, Salvation Army and 30 other local organizations.

In addition to the graduates and United Way staff and volunteers, representatives from 18 Henderson County non-profits were on hand, ready to meet these trained and eager volunteers.
The 2011-2012 Rising Leaders Program graduates are: Rachel Beal, Diversified Clinical Services; Ryan Cannon, First Citizens Bank; David Crist, Pardee Hospital; Adam Fisher, Henderson County Family YMCA; Pamela Herbst, Pardee Hospital; Jennifer Israel, Mission Hospital; Marcus Jones, Henderson County Government; James Kelly, Aging Projects, Inc.; Nitiki Kilgore, Agape Services; Randy Maples, Eaton Corporation; Jama Maples, Eaton Corporation; Chad Merrill; Blue Ridge Community College; Brandon Nudd, Park Ridge Health; Lisa Sargent, Friday Staffing Services; Brett Shaffer, Morrow Insurance Agency; Wesley Wells, Pardee Hospital; Melanie White, Department of Commerce, Division of Welfare Solutions; Jay Wilderman, First Citizens Bank; and Erika Woodall, Mills River United Methodist Church.

The Rising Leaders Program is a creation of United Way of Henderson County’s Rising Leaders Committee. Chaired by Graham Fields of Park Ridge Health, the committee members are Christina DeStefano, Henderson County Government; Josh Hallingse, Partnership for Economic Development; April Killough, Blue Ridge Community College; Summer Stipe, Children and Family Resource Center; and Melissa Walden, Pardee Hospital.

UWHC will be accepting applications for the 2012/2013 Rising Leaders Program beginning on May 15. Application materials will be available at an informational event that evening at Never Blue (119 South Main Street) from 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm. Anyone is welcome to attend this free event; please call 692-1636 or email to rsvp. After May 15, application materials will also be available on the UWHC website at Please contact Sarah Kowalak at 692-1636 or for more information about the Rising Leaders Program.

United Way is advancing the common good by creating opportunities for a better life in Henderson County. If you would like more information or have questions or comments about United Way, or would like to make a donation, contact the United Way of Henderson County at PO Box 487, Hendersonville, NC 28793, call 692-1636, visit on the Web at, or become a fan of UWHC on Facebook.