When economic times are tough, it is often women and children who suffer most. That is the impetus behind a United Way initiative to reach successful women in the community and encourage them to help those less fortunate – the women and children who are struggling with challenges such as domestic violence, access to health care and child care, and other critical issues.

UCF Community Relations Vice President Helen Donegan helped launch the effort three years ago, serving as inaugural chair of the United Way Women’s Leadership Initiative. To help raise awareness, funds and volunteer support, the group holds a luncheon featuring a well-known woman who brings particular insight into the challenges facing women.

Donegan and Karen Dee, president and CEO of Fifth Third Bank, co-chaired this year’s successful luncheon. Almost 500 people attended the March 30 event where they heard from Sapphire, author of New York Times bestseller Push. That book was adapted to Oscar-winning film Precious, produced by Oprah Winfrey and Lee Daniels.