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Living United: A Conversation with Ginna Holleman of The United Way

When Ginna Holleman moved to Clarksville nearly 30 years ago as a teenager, she likely had no idea that she would grow to love her new community so much that she would become a part of an organization so fully focused on making life better for those in need—especially since, at the age of 15, she was resistant to the move. But she soon learned “Mothers really do know best,” as she says with a laugh; and she’s become an integral part of initiating change in the Clarksville area.

Building her own steely determination to rise up from adversity on the examples set forth by both her mother and her grandmother, Holleman was instilled at an early age with a spirit of courage and perseverance as well as a deep empathy for those facing insurmountable odds and hard times. She grew up desiring to help others in changing their futures for the better; and after college, that desire found purpose with United Way. Throughout the time of her volunteer work with them, her passion grew deeper and stronger still; and when she went back out into the workforce after spending years as a stay-at-home mother to her daughter, she put her whole heart into her new work—literally.

Joining the team at United Way of the Greater Clarksville Region in 2011 as the campaign and marketing director, Holleman took on a new title after a mere five months—one with far greater gravitas, but also one which truly tapped into her passion and skills. In her role as Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, she oversees the development of relationships in the community and creates strong partnerships with donors, funded partners, volunteers, staff, funding entities, governmental agencies, community and civic organizations, businesses, and nonprofit organizations to further the mission of United Way. It’s a position she takes on with a great deal of pride, feeling the full weight of the accountability she carries in ensuring that the teams of staff and volunteers she’s built are accomplishing the set goals and standards for operation, maintaining fiscal integrity, and preserving the transparency of the organization. Further still, she spearheads fundraising campaigns and keeps a close watch of the community impact of United Way partner programs.

What do you enjoy about living and working in Clarksville?

As one of the fastest growing communities, Clarksville has a unique personality that captures both the essence of a hometown spirit with the cultural, civic, economic and educational advantages of a larger city. People genuinely care about one another and are quick to reach out their hands to a neighbor in need. There's the familiarity of greeting someone you know in any local establishment, along with the hospitality of welcoming someone new. It’s exciting to see Clarksville develop and earn its top position among the best places to live, work, and raise a family.

What might our readers not know about you?

I’m a bit of a daredevil!

Share a brief history of United Way...

In 1887 a Denver woman, a priest, two ministers, and a rabbi got together…It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke, but these unlikely partners recognized the need to work together in new ways to make Denver a better place. Together, they formed what later became the nation's first united campaign, benefitting ten area health and welfare agencies. They created an organization to collect the funds for local charities, coordinate relief services, counsel and refer clients to cooperating agencies, and make emergency assistance grants. That year, Denver raised $21,000 for this greater good and created a movement that would become United Way.

What are the organization's greatest challenges and most important needs at present?

United Way's most prevalent challenge will always be securing enough resources to adequately meet our community's social needs. As our region grows, that growth brings the need for additional health and human services that require sufficient funds to operate and achieve the desired community impact. Preserving and developing these resources also grows more challenging each year.

What are your top priorities at present?

United Way focuses our efforts on three mission components: to give, to advocate, and to volunteer. Our first priority is raising funds to provide financial support to well-performing partner programs that address education, health and financial stability initiatives. Funds are raised primarily through workplace giving campaigns as well as individual, corporate, and government contributions. These funds are wisely invested in high performing programs achieving measurable outcomes.

United Way also galvanizes people to speak out for change. We're amplifying individuals’ voices on important community issues. To identify and create awareness of those issues, United Way conducts a community needs assessment each year through a partnership with the APSU Sociology Department. The information obtained allows us to strategically direct resources for maximum community impact.

Meaningful community solutions require more than money or programs or policies. United Way's mission to improve lives and strengthen communities is fueled by the passion and hard work of volunteers, people who give their time and talents to create lasting solutions that improve life for everyone. United Way strives to connect volunteers with meaningful opportunities to serve.

How many fundraisers do you have annually?

United Way conducts a giving campaign throughout the entire year with the heaviest campaign activity between the months of September and April.

How is that money used?

Funds raised are annually distributed in the community through a volunteer-led allocations process. Each year, Full Partner Agency Programs may submit applications for funding during this process. Volunteers evaluate each agency’s request from funding based on their effectiveness at providing services, the need for those services in the region, and the impact of United Way funding in meeting those needs. The process ensures fiscal and program accountability for all agencies receiving United Way funds, while meeting the health and human service needs of our community.

United Way presently provides funding for 28 local partner programs in Montgomery, Houston, and Stewart Counties serving education, health, and financial stability initiatives.

What are your plans for the future of your organization?

Today's United Way is bringing people, organizations, and communities together around a common cause, a common vision, and a common path forward. We will actively seek to connect partners in a synergistic approach to strengthen collaboration. I am excited about new programs we are working to introduce that will better facilitate these efforts and contribute to our collective mission of improving lives. We are also enthusiastic about introducing new and innovative volunteer opportunities such as the Read United virtual volunteer program that allows workplace volunteers and CMCSS elementary students to read to each other via Skype. In June, United Way will celebrate a Day of Action by partnering with the City of Clarksville to install a Born Learning Trail in Liberty Park. The Trail is a series of ten interactive signs that offer fun, active learning activities for young children and their families. Local volunteers will help install the trail on June 21st and present it to the Mayor McMillan with ribbon cutting ceremony.

United Way of the Greater Clarksville Region is located at 529 N. Second Street, Suite 1, Clarksville, Tennessee 37040. For more information about ways to get involved or donation opportunities, call (931) 647-4291 or visit

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