Our Mission

Improve the lives of others by mobilizing the caring power of our community.

Our Vision

Build a community in which everyone has the aspirations, resources and opportunities to reach their fullest potential.

We are your neighbors, co-workers and friends. We are a collaboration of donors, volunteers, organizations and experts—UNITED around the shared sense of purpose to reduce poverty in our community. Founded in 1923, United Way of Central Ohio is one of the largest United Ways in the country. We bring together more than 80,000 donors, advocates and volunteers, because when we speak and act together, we have the power to do more and our impact multiplies.

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United Way of Central Ohio is a
volunteer-driven organization

Concerned and compassionate citizens created United Way of Central Ohio to help people in need and make our community a better place for everyone.

Today, we are mobilizing the caring power of thousands of individuals and central Ohio employers to advance the common good.  Together, we are working to create opportunities for a better life for all.  We are joining hands, opening our hearts, lending our muscle and finding our collective voice.

Lisa Courtice, Ph.D. President and CEO
Position:

President and CEO

telephone:

614.227.2724

Biography:

Lisa S. Courtice is president and CEO of United Way of Central Ohio, one of the largest United Way organizations in the country. Under her leadership, United Way is helping to mobilize the central Ohio community to reduce poverty.

Dr. Courtice is a Ph.D. psychologist with over twenty-five years of experience working in nonprofit leadership having served for over ten years as the CEO, Co-CEO and clinical director of agencies directly providing services to those living in poverty in Ohio. For the last thirteen years she has served as executive vice president and leader of community research and grants management of The Columbus Foundation, the seventh largest community foundation in the country.

Lisa currently serves on the Prevent Family Homeless Collaborative and the Workforce Development Board of Central Ohio. In 2018 she was appointed by Columbus City Council to serve as a commissioner on the Commission on Black Girls.  Her professional leadership has included serving on the Weinland Park Collaborative, Psychiatric Crisis & Emergency System Task Force of Central Ohio and the Ohio Wesleyan University and Columbus School for Girls Board of Trustees. Lisa received her Bachelor of Arts from Syracuse University, her Master of Arts from West Virginia University, and her Ph.D. from the University of Akron.

Cheryl Nelson Sr. Vice President of Finance & CFO
Position:

Sr. Vice President of Finance & CFO

telephone:

614.227.2718

Biography:

Cheryl Nelson is Senior Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer for the United Way of Central Ohio. In her role, Cheryl is committed to ensuring the organization maintains adherence to strict accountability and transparency standards to maintain financial integrity and donor trust.

Cheryl has been a CPA (currently inactive) since 1987 and has over 25 years of experience in public accounting, healthcare finance and non-profit financial and operational management. Prior to joining the United Way in May 2001, Cheryl was the CFO of the Jewish Community Center (a United Way member agency) for four years. Cheryl’s first United Way experience was working as a Loaned Executive during the 1987 campaign.

Cheryl currently serves as an alumni member and past chair of the United Way Worldwide Financial Issues Committee. She is also a member of the Operations Council for UPIC Solutions, a national administrative services cooperative managed by local United Ways. Cheryl’s other volunteer work includes serving as a mentor in the United Way Women’s Leadership E3 program and a site coordinator for the TaxTime free tax preparation service.

Stephanie Campolo Merkle Senior Assistant Vice President, Development
Position:

Senior Assistant Vice President, Development

Biography:

In her role as Senior Assistant Vice President, Stephanie leads United Way of Central Ohio’s workforce fundraising efforts responding to donor needs throughout the community. Stephanie and her team generate the financial resources necessary to support United Way’s community impact agenda and maximize United Way’s resources under management.

Stephanie has held progressive roles with the organization beginning as a Loaned Executive in 2007.  Eventually she earned the Director of Development role where she led the major accounts team, raising more than $20 million each year. She coordinated campaign strategies, oversaw implementation of action plans, and managed special projects.  In 2010, Stephanie founded Pride Council, United Way’s first-ever LGBT giving group.

In the past, Stephanie also led development efforts for Junior Achievement of Central Ohio – an organization which teaches elementary through high school aged students financial literacy skills, 21stcentury workforce skills, and an entrepreneurial mindset.  JACO prepares more than 20,000 students each year to be the future leaders of our community.  In her role, Stephanie worked with corporate and individual stakeholders to support JA BizTown and JA In-Class programs.

Stephanie holds a bachelor’s degree from John Carroll University and a Master of Business Administration from Ohio Dominican University.  A member of the Bicentennial class of Leadership Columbus, she continues her community work as a mentor with United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council. Stephanie and her husband, Shawn, along with their two boys, live in Hilliard, Ohio.

Michael Wilkos SVP of Community Impact
Position:

SVP of Community Impact

telephone:

614.227.8704

Biography:

Michael Wilkos is Senior Vice President of Community Impact.  His team develops effective strategies to improve our community and invests in programs provided by funded partners to implement these strategies.

Prior to joining United Way, Michael was Director of Community Research at The Columbus Foundation. During his tenure at the foundation he initiated, led, and managed more than $9 million in competitive grant-making to support holistic community revitalization in Weinland Park, an effort to stabilize and revitalize a mixed-income community near The Ohio State University. Prior to joining the foundation, Michael served as Senior Impact Director and Director of Neighborhood Development at United Way of Central Ohio.  In that position he managed program allocations supporting neighborhood development strategies. Among many other duties, he also directed volunteer involvement in developing and implementing strategies supporting housing and community safety programs.

Kermit Whitfield Senior Assistant Vice President - Communications
Position:

Senior Assistant Vice President - Communications

telephone:

614.227.2726

Biography:

Kermit is responsible for developing and implementing communications strategies that educate people on United Way’s mission of fighting poverty.  Kermit began his career in communications at Honda Motor Company in Tokyo, Japan and later worked at Honda of America Mfg. and as a magazine editor.  During his tenure at United Way the organization has greatly expanded its strategic communications and earned media efforts.

Kermit is a member of the 2009 class of Leadership Columbus.  He is a member of the Columbus Metropolitan Club board of trustees and past chair of its program committee.  He also serves as vice chair of the Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District board and chairs its marketing committee.  He is also vice president of the board of Yay Bikes! the premier bicycle transportation advocacy organization in central Ohio and serves on the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission’s insight2050 communications committee.  He was a judge for the Business First Columbus Corporate Caring Awards from 2011 to 2017.

Valerie Ridgeway Assistant Vice President, Community Impact Operations
Position:

Assistant Vice President, Community Impact Operations

telephone:

614.227.2706

Biography:

Valerie is the Assistant Vice President for Community Impact Operations.  She oversees the day-to-day operations of the Community Impact Department and works cross-functionally with other departments to ensure collaboration, communication and the implementation of strategies and processes that ensure maximum success.

Valerie began her career with United Way of Central Ohio in December 2007 as the organization’s first full-time Public Policy Director.  In that role she oversaw the development and implementation of United Way’s public policy agenda and helped advance public policies that impacted early care and education, financial stability, safe and affordable housing and access to healthcare.  Her efforts helped establish United Way’s presence among statewide coalitions that advocate on behalf of health and human services.

In April 2016 Valerie was promoted to Assistant Vice President for Public Policy & Government Relations where she worked to ensure the integration of public policy advocacy throughout United Way’s work.  In September 2017 Valerie transitioned to her current role of Assistant Vice President for Community Impact Operations.

Valerie is a 2010 graduate of Leadership Columbus and a 2018 graduate of the African American Leadership Academy (Favored 14).  Valerie graduated from Miami University with a degree in Communications.  Prior to relocating to Columbus, Valerie served as the Public Policy Coordinator for Hospice of the Western Reserve in Cleveland.  She also managed the public policy activities of the Cleveland Area Alzheimer’s Association and the Ohio Council of the Alzheimer’s Association. Valerie enjoys gardening, music, theatre arts, swimming, pouring into the lives of others and spending time with family and friends.

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