Questions with Ava Rosa
An interview with Afira DeVries, President and CEO of United Way of Roanoke Valley
This is Ava Rosa. Today, I have three questions for Afira DeVries, President and CEO of United Way of Roanoke Valley.
Mrs. DeVries began her United Way career in Worcester, Massachusetts, about 18 years ago, shortly after graduating from Averett University in Danville, Virginia. In that time, Mrs. DeVries has become known as a passionate and effective advocate for those seeking a better life. Serving in Worcester, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Tampa, and now Roanoke, DeVries and the teams she has led have generated over 250 million dollars in financial support for those communities. Afira, her husband, two daughters, and their dog, relocated to Roanoke from Tampa early last year. Mrs. DeVries and her team are working to address the most important human service needs in our community and building on a tradition of nearly 100 years of United Way service to Roanoke. It is my pleasure to introduce you to the President and CEO of the United Way of Roanoke Valley, Afira DeVries. Ava Rosa: Thank you for inviting me to speak with you today, Mrs. DeVries. DeVries: It’s my pleasure to have you here. Ava Rosa: There are so many nonprofit organizations in the world that do so many different, but important things. What is unique about United Way and why should people invest through your organization
instead of donating directly to whatever charity they like most? DeVries: Well, everything in life is connected. When a person or a family has a problem they usually have more than one. What United Way is able to do is connect the dots between the programs that are in our community to help people, to make sure that they are working together well in order to rely on each other. United Way makes sure that there is funding available for those programs to be strong and stable. We also are the organization that figures out when there is a gap in
service. When something needs to be done, that isn’t being done, United Way is usually the organization that points that out and often comes up with the solutions to those problems, sometimes even creating our own initiatives to help fill in those gaps and help people be stronger and more stable. What we do really, is bring people together around people who need help and anybody who’s wanting to make a good, smart investment, that makes one gift and takes care of an entire family, United Way is a pretty good solution for that. Ava Rosa: Why do you do this work and what have you learned in those other communities that you want to bring here to Roanoke? DeVries: I do this work because of where I come from and the life I had when I was a child and the examples I had when I was a little girl. I have a beautiful, wonderful family, with two wonderful parents, but we had struggles when I was little. Those struggles taught me how important it is to be resilient and to rely on other people, but to also have a community that cares about you and is thinking about the potential our children have, regardless of where they are coming from.
It’s about making sure that every child in this community has the best possible shot in life.
My parents went on to be very successful not for profit leaders and they inspired me and that really propelled me. You make a decision about what your life experiences are going to lead you to become. My life
June 2016 • growingupinthevalley.com
Volume 4, Issue 11