Celebrating Incredible Community Members at Annual Meeting

Celebrating Incredible Community Members at Annual Meeting

(From left) Jackie Herd-Barber, Ilona Abrahamson, and Vincent Lyles

February 22, 2019

On February 21, 2019, United Way held our Annual Meeting. This event allows donors and stakeholders an opportunity to see how their investment is being put to work in the community.

One of our favorite parts of this event is the presentation of the Gwen T. Jackson Community Service Award, the John A. Puelicher Award for Loaned Executive Excellence, and the Linda McFerrin Award for African American Nonprofit Leadership. Meet this year’s winners!

Jacqueline Herd-Barber, Gwen T. Jackson Community Service Award honoree

Jacqueline (Jackie) Herd-Barber is a passionate volunteer deeply involved in advancing the health, education, and financial stability of everyone in her community. Jackie made her mark early, as a co-founder of MSOE’s National Society of Black Engineers. After graduating in 1984 with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, she embarked on a nearly 25-year career with Motorola. Over the years, Jackie has been active in the MSOE community as president of the Alumni Association and a mentor in the Upward Bound program, encouraging students to pursue STEM careers. Jackie served as a 2016 United Way Campaign Co-chair, helping the organization raise more than $60 million. Jackie serves on several community and civic boards, and has been widely recognized for her community contributions. United Way is proud to honor Jackie for her commitment to making the community stronger, better, and more equitable for everyone.

Says Jackie:

“To receive an award named for Gwen Jackson is truly an honor.  No one has done more as a Milwaukee volunteer than Gwen—and she has inspired countless of others to walk that walk.  My husband and I are long time financial supporters of United Way and other charities, which we feel is very important.  But it is also critical to do the work, which is why I spend as much time as I can at Metcalfe School, with Milwaukee Succeeds, and at United Way.”

The Gwen T. Jackson Community Service award was established in 1981 and is presented annually to the United Way volunteer who best exemplified a spirit of volunteerism and dedication to one’s community.

Ilona Abrahamson, John A. Puelicher Award for Loaned Executive Excellence honoree

Ilona Abrahamson served as a United Way Loaned Executive (representing We Energies) for the first time in 2018. Inspired by helping people feel supported, encouraged, engaged, and energized by what they do, Ilona has been actively engaged in mentoring, coaching, and serving others at work and in the community for many years. A fellow 2018 Loaned Executive described her as “…always in good spirits and super enthusiastic about the United Way mission. Ilona handled some of the biggest accounts with multiple events without a hitch. She was so positive and was obviously moved by what she learned here.” Passionate about her professional career, Ilona leads Operations and Maintenance for multiple We Energies/WPS Power Generation Technical Learning and Simulator centers. Ilona holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Business and Marketing and is a ASOPE licensed Operating Engineer. United Way is proud to honor Ilona for her dedication and service to both our organization and the broader community.

Says Ilona:

“My United Way partnership began over 35 year ago.  When I first started my career, I was asked to donate.  I was impressed with the United Way mission, reminiscent of my childhood participation in many United Way supported agency’s including the Girl Scouts, YMCA, and early childhood education programs.  Those programs provided me with life-long, critical foundation skills on my path to adulthood.

In 2018, I found myself honored to serve as my employer’s, We Energies, Loaned Executive to United Way. This provided valuable opportunities to go beyond the annual donation.  I saw firsthand the work partner agencies were doing and had many opportunities to work alongside and talk directly with the people and volunteers whose lives were being impacted.  I am honored to call myself a friend and supporter of United Way!”

The John A. Puelicher Award for Loaned Executive excellence was instituted in 2005. John (“Jack”) Puelicher led Marshall & Ilsley Corporation from 1963-1991 and was a strong United Way champion and volunteer.

Learn more about United Way’s Loaned Executive program.

Vincent Lyles, Linda McFerrin Award for African American Nonprofit Leadership

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day 2019, United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County announced Vincent Lyles as the first recipient of the Linda McFerrin Award for African American Nonprofit Leadership.

The Linda McFerrin Award was established by United Way’s Board Chairman Cory Nettles of Generation Growth Capital, Inc. and his wife Michelle Nettles, chief people and diversity officer of Molson Coors Brewing Company, in recognition of Linda McFerrin, retired vice president of resource development and her 42 years of leadership and service to United Way.

Vincent Lyles was the president and CEO of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee for seven years and is known in the community as a strong advocate working to advance issues that help support youth in Milwaukee.


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