Helping People

Women’s Leadership Council bands together for greater good

Natali Justiniano Pahl, Jennifer Moriarty pack packages.
Natali Justiniano Pahl, Jennifer Moriarty pack packages.

On a rainy day in late September, more than 30 women traveled across the United States from places like Knoxville, Tennessee, and Albuquerque, New Mexico, to gather in Miami.

Amid the bagels and the buzz of chatter, members of the United Way Women’s Leadership Council bundled nail polish, loofahs and other items into care packages for the women of Lotus House, an Overtown shelter that is home to more than 180 women and children.

“We heard the stories of desperation and relief for those that found solace there,” said Maria Mas Blet, chair of the United Way National Women’s Leadership Council and CEO of Coral Gables-based GSK Wealth Advisors. “The event was a success on so many levels and helped provide a deep grounding that helped frame the discussions to be held throughout our business meetings.”

Three guiding principles steer the United Way Women’s Leadership Council: elevate, engage and impact, said Miami Council Chair Rosary Plana Falero.

Nationally, the United Way Women’s Leadership Council has raised more than $1 billion since its inception in 2002. The Miami Women’s Leadership Council alone raised $4.4 million in 2014.

“These are all women who share in their spirit of community and philanthropy and want to give back and participate in United Way,” said Plana Falero, an executive vice president of Coconut Grove Bank.

The Miami Women’s Leadership Council primarily focuses on promoting early education initiatives and improving child literacy across South Florida.

Its two-story Center for Excellence in Early Education, which Harve Mogul, United Way of Miami-Dade president and CEO, calls “the epicenter of high-quality early education,”houses multiple playrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, soundproof rooms filled with musical instruments and a backyard garden, where children learn to grow fruits and vegetables.

More than 10,000 early childhood administrators, directors and assistants have been trained at the center.

Aside from Lotus House, United Way of Miami-Dade works with the Boys & Girls Club as well the Miami-Dade Public Schools’ Prom Project, which helps young girls from low-income families to attend prom, an often costly affair.

Maria Mas Blet has a to-do list as well.

During her two-year term as chair of the National Women’s Leadership Council, she hopes to join forces with female-driven organizations outside of United Way.

"Women give more because they care on a completely different level,” she said, a statement that is well founded by academic studies. “They get engaged more. They understand more. They demand more.”

Getting involved

To learn more about the United Way Women’s Leadership Council, contact Yanet Obarrio-Sanchez at United Way of Miami-Dade at