By MANDY STANAGE SHOPTAW | Photography by SARAH ODEN
The mission of the Heart of Arkansas United Way is simple: uniting those who can help with those who need help. It’s a mission that reflects the generous nature of Millie Ward and Larry Stone, stalwarts of the advertising community in Arkansas. This fall, as co-chairs of the United Way’s annual campaign, Millie and Larry encourage support of this organization that provides funding to a variety of partners.
“Millie and I are mindful of what Jesus said in Luke 12:48, “‘To whom much is given, much is required.’ And we have been grateful for what we’ve seen business leaders in Central Arkansas accomplish with their personal philanthropy,” explains Larry. Millie continues, “One of the greatest philanthropists I know, Pat Lile, often quotes a billboard that was put up in the 1950s that said, “Who will build Little Rock if her own people do not?’” Enriching our community has to start with private sector leadership. And that’s what the Heart of Arkansas United Way is all about.”
Larry was introduced to United Way in the 1970s when, as a young creative director, he executed two campaigns for the organization. Millie became familiar with United Way in the 1980s when Stone Ward became the pro bono agency. “Larry and I both knew that this community campaign played an important role in creating awareness and funding for so many of the organizations that support our youth, our families and those in need,” Millie explains. “I later joined the board of directors and saw firsthand that the United Way campaign was a high priority for some of the top business executives and largest employers in Central Arkansas who took their personal time to run workplace campaigns that were enthusiastically supported from the boardroom to the mail room and all points in between.”
“Larry and Millie are business leaders who bring the kind of creative, strategic problem-solving to their work that United Way brings to meeting community needs,” Heart of Arkansas United Way Vice President of Communication & Engagement Mollie Palmer says of the couple. “Their support for United Way makes them a great fit to chair this year’s campaign.”
The Heart of Arkansas United Way’s annual campaign solicits businesses to encourage employees to make contributions; which the organization uses to connect people in need to programs that can help. They focus on quality education, family financial stability and health care. Larry sums it up, “This is a grassroots way for employees to connect to meaningful causes, and it provides a way for them to give conveniently as a payroll deduction. A staff member can give a dollar per pay period and be involved; and over the years as they are blessed, they can bless others with a larger gift.”
“United Way’s roots in Little Rock date back to 1923, and partnership with the corporate community has been a part of our work since the very beginning,” Mollie explains. “Over 300 organizations come together to form a strong foundation for our United Way. Some are large manufacturers like Caterpillar and Kimberly Clark, some are major global entities like UPS and FedEx, while some are locally-owned companies like Stone Ward.”
As with many of the businesses that support the annual campaign, it is visionary leadership that defines the civic responsibility of its team members. Of Stone Ward’s contributions over the years Mollie says, “Millie and Larry have not only given their own individual gifts, but they have offered their employees the opportunity to support United Way as both volunteers and donors. It’s important to us to identify leaders for our campaign who have done just this– we’re so thankful to have Millie and Larry’s support and enthusiasm for our work and for this campaign.”