On Friday, November 21, 2014 I had the pleasure of being a first time guest at the Urban Affairs Coalition (UAC) 45th Anniversary Breakfast held in the Grand Ballroom at the Hyatt at The Bellevue! Billed as “Philadelphia’s premiere networking event,” nearly 1,000 decision-makers in Philadelphia’s business, government and nonprofit communities gathered to support this year’s theme: “To this we pledge…”
As I sat in the media section located in the balcony, I scanned the audience to get an idea of who was in the room and to get a feel for what the event was all about. While it was great to see the prominent guests in attendance and people networking, it was extremely empowering to see young professionals–particularly millennial’s–there as well. I was especially happy to see the “Friends of the Coalition” members grace the stage as they were recognized for their commitment and support to the UAC vision. The “Friends of the Coalition” initiative was instituted to “establish and support the next generation of leaders and givers.” Young professionals under the age of 40 who pledge $1,000 to UAC receive exclusive networking opportunities with other members and top regional executives; access to invitation-only events during the Pennsylvania Society in December 2015; and an exclusive invitation to the UAC Board of Directors Annual Meeting and Reception in June 2015.
“We challenged ourselves, our board and our staff to have a bigger impact in 2014,” said Sharmain Matlock-Turner, President/CEO of UAC. “We are happy to announce that we surpassed our original fundraising goal and raised $500,000. We are extremely thankful and grateful for our supporters and advocates, who have helped prove that no goal is unattainable.”
As shared by my loves over at Skai Blue Media: VIP attendees and supporters included Mayor Michael A. Nutter and Governor Elect Tom Wolf, who addressed the crowd with remarks, congratulating UAC for its 45 years of service to the Philadelphia region. Wolf also spoke briefly about how the health of big cities affects the
vitality of the entire state of Pennsylvania. Guests pledged their support to UAC’s mission as they honored three community leaders with the following prestigious awards:
“When you’re good to Philadelphia, Philadelphia is good to you,” said Hughes as she accepted the Community Leadership Award.
After the breakfast concluded, I stopped to chat with Sharmain and of course I just had to make a strong first impression–well more like strong-armed first impression. As we went to embrace, my elbow and forearm knocked her iPhone clear out of her hand sending it to the floor with a slapping sound that left me praying it was okay. Most people would have done the slow-motion, knee-jerk reaction of yelling “noooooo” as they dashed to save it (you know you’ve done it before! Haha!)–not Sharmain though. When she picked it up, the screen was just as cracked as my face probably was with embarrassment! She responded with a eased, lighthearted chuckle, “It was time for a new phone anyway!” The next thing I know her Chief Operating and Information Officer was standing among us chuckling as well as he got things in order for a replacement.
I’m just thankful that she was still kind enough to later give me an interview…and that I didn’t have to pay for the replacement, haha! Don’t judge me, my bank account would have cried. Seriously. No…seriously.
Anywho loves, take a moment to get to know the woman leading a coalition that, in 2014 alone, has managed $100 million dollars and served 150,000 people and counting.
Ladies and gents, say hello to Sharmain Matlock-Turner…
Sincerely Syreeta: First, tell the SS readers who you are and a little about yourself.
Sharmain Matlock-Turner: I am the CEO and President of the Urban Affairs Coalition. I have been the CEO of UAC for 15 years, staying curious, engaged and passionate about what I do. We are building the bridge for the next generation of leaders, while continuing to be a home for non-profits where really great, award-winning and nationally recognized work gets done.
SS: You all are building a bridge indeed! The theme for this year’s 45th Anniversary Breakfast is “To This We Pledge…” After 45 years of “bringing people together and getting things done” why do you personally think it’s important that the more than 1,000 attendees pledge (or re-pledge) themselves and their work to the UAC mission?
SMT: Every year, the attendance at our annual breakfast is a reflection of the tremendous amount of support and acknowledgement we are shown for UAC’s longevity and impact in the region. This year over 1,000 of the city’s most important decision makers attend[ed] to represent their constituents and their communities. Together, we celebrate[d] the work UAC does and will continue to do in the future.
SS: It was a great celebration! What are some of the initiatives, partnerships, or grassroots work that developed as a result of this event in the past?
SMT: At our Annual Breakfast, while we celebrate the work that UAC does, many lasting relationships and strong connections made, which is why we build a networking component into our programming. We want all attendees engaging in thoughtful conversations and starting meaningful discussions. The individuals, organizations and communities that come to our breakfast work very closely throughout the year to do great work and create lasting impact. UAC is a place to highlight that body of work.
SS: The networking component further speaks to UAC’s commitment to its mission. You’ve been with the coalition for 15 years now. Your dedication, influence and impact have proven to be invaluable to the UAC and its work, as well as to the city of Philadelphia and beyond. Based on your personal observation, how has the city of Philadelphia changed for the better in the past 15 years?
SMT: Firstly, there has been great increase in opportunities for communities of color, women and members of the LGBTQ community to
participate and work in the Philadelphia region. However, we aren’t fully there yet. While there is a lot more work to do, even my leadership at UAC is an example of this change for the better, and proof that women and people of color can become great leaders. Secondly, Philadelphia’s reputation has evolved, and we are now considered innovative, safer and smarter. We are ranked highly as a place to live, work and play.
SS: How has the UAC been a part of—or helped to fuel–that change?
SMT: One example is UAC’s Economic Development Project. With over 25 years experience as the premier organization for promoting and monitoring inclusion, UAC’s Economic Development Projects (EDP) department has worked closely with employers and communities to ensure the participation of Minority, Women, Disabled, and Local Business Enterprises (M/W/DS/LBE) on projects in the Philadelphia region and in major cities in the United States. Another example is that UAC continues to create access to capital and bridges from the mainstream in regards to banking. Our community and economic work has created opportunities for families to build economic worth during times that have been very challenging.
SS: And THAT is something that families–struggling or otherwise–in our city need. What do you hope people are aware of and understand when it comes to UAC’s fiscal impact in Philadelphia?
SMT: Since UAC’s founding, we have managed over $1 billion dollars in community investments. This year, UAC has managed $100 million, creating economic impact through the 150,000 people we serve and funds we manage locally.
SS: With that kind of impact and success, what is UAC’s vision for 2015?
SMT: Throughout 2015 and beyond, UAC will continue to be focused on the future, especially making sure that technology is provided and works for all of our program partners. We will continue advocacy around summer jobs for teens, as we believe it is critical for youth to have those experiences. We’ve also been chosen to develop the inclusion plan for the new Comcast Innovation Center.
SS: Speaking of the younger generation, I’ve noticed that the UAC is really starting to tap into the gold mine that is the millennial population via the “Friends of the Coalition.” Why did you all find necessary to actively engage this demographic in your efforts?
SMT: Research and our work within various communities show that donors are now younger and more diverse. UAC is committed to supporting the next generation of leaders and givers, and this year we’ve instated the “Friends of the Coalition.” [Additionally] This year, UAC also hosted a Twitter chat to discuss the power of millennial influence, which can create lasting change.
SS: How do you envision millennial’s not only impacting the City of Philadelphia, but also influencing the way in which UAC shapes public policy and delivers responsive community programming?
SMT: The millennial generation is very much a “text” savvy version of our founding generation. They are concerned about social problems in a way that we haven’t seen in 30-45 years. It’s an incredibly promising time to see young people in the pursuit of better neighborhoods, schools, jobs, civic life, and society overall. We know that millennial’s are very committed to their communities and are interested in making an impact. They care about social good and making change — and UAC is here to help drive that change from the ground up.
SS: I think I speak for a lot of us when I say that we’re glad to have the UAC’s help and support. Finally, what is one special highlight of yours that captures the value and necessity of the Anniversary Breakfast?
SMT: We are incredibly honored that Governor Elect Tom Wolf attend[ed] our breakfast this year. We know that the work he will do in Harrisburg will be so important as we look to improve education and jobs in Philadelphia, while advancing our growing economy. We are look[ed] forward to having him as an honored guest this year – and hopefully for many years to come.
Visit www.uac.org to learn more about the work of the Urban Affairs Coalition and explore ways that you can get involved! And if you feel like putting your money where your mouth is, click here to make a donation. 😉
Congratulations UAC for 45 years of service and excellence!
Stay Connected| Twitter: @UACoalition @SharmainUAC | Facebook: Facebook.com/UrbanAffairsCoalition and Facebook.com/Sharmain.MatlockTurner
– Sincerely Syreeta