President and CEO, United Way of Delaware
“Serving others and making change is in my DNA,” says Michelle Taylor, who’s dedicated her career to nonprofits, with the last 21 years at United Way of Delaware.
As the organization’s CFO, and later COO, she’s familiar with the needs of Delaware’s communities. That includes addressing systemic and institutional issues, as well as immediate needs for lasting impact. For Taylor, one of the most important challenges is childhood education and ensuring kids are on the right track. She’s worked on initiatives through Delaware Stars and Get Delaware Reading, which helps Delaware’s youth achieve their reading level by third grade. “We know this milestone is the strongest indicator of where kids end up,” she explains.
When deficits are addressed early, children are better positioned academically and more able get living-wage jobs and break the cycle of poverty. That also means addressing issues more deeply. “When you think about poverty, systemic issues, it’s intergenerational,” she says.
One of United Way of Delaware’s initiatives is Stand by Me, a program “helping families be financially empowered,” with such resources as financial coaches. They’ve helped reduce over $20 million in debt for 25,000 people. Since the start of the pandemic, the Delaware 211 hotline has seen a 70 percent increase in calls. By connecting residents with Stand by Me, they’re helping people navigate everything from paying their bills to getting tested for COVID-19.