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  • Ilitch Charities Supports United Way for Southeastern Michigan   
  • United Way Board Member Kelle Ilitch Introduces Brown Girl Dreaming Author Jacqueline Woodson at Women of Influence Summit

As part of an ongoing celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8, more than 600 women and men in the Detroit area came together to support the 7th Annual Women of Influence Summit. The Summit, supported by Women United, part of United Way for Southeastern Michigan (UWSEM), helped fundraising efforts surpass the $1 million mark towards early childhood education efforts.

Led by UWSEM President and CEO Darienne Driver Hudson, the Summit brought together more than 600 leaders in business, the nonprofit community and government – along with women who deliver services directly to children each day. The event also featured a collection of regional women-owned businesses, including Rebel Nell, Source Booksellers, and The Lip Bar. 

Ilitch Charities proudly served as Keynote Sponsor for the Summit. The Summit’s Keynote speaker, author Jacqueline Woodson, captivated the crowd much as she has captivated readers with the wide variety of books she has written for more than 30 years, including Brown Girl Dreaming. In her work, Woodson exemplifies both the goals and the spirit of the Women of Influence Summit in terms of creating a more just and equitable society. 

Kelle Ilitch, who also serves on the UWSEM board, introduced Woodson. Ilitch said she was honored to be part of an event “to support strengthening children’s early education and literacy – and to advance equity, not just as part of International Women’s Day, but every single day.” 

Ilitch, a former middle school teacher and counselor, talked about education equity and the need to transform schools and youth development programs to create safe and empowering learning environments and enable positive relationships where every student feels a sense of belonging. She added, “Books play a special role in equity.”

The Summit also recognized local women leaders making a difference for children and advancing equity. Local business executive Beth Ardisana received this year’s Women of Influence Award for her substantial civic work. A business owner of ASG Renaissance LLC, a scheduling and staffing firm, Ardisana has held leadership positions in Detroit-area nonprofit organizations including the Skillman Foundation, CS Mott Foundation, Kettering University, Metropolitan Affairs Coalition, Focus: Hope, and Next Energy. She was appointed by the Governor to the executive board of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and chairs its finance committee. Ardisana is also the vice chair of Wayne Health. 

Joshua Sanborn, director of Ilitch Charities, said that “We are proud to be a long-standing partner with UWSEM and we were honored to join them at this Summit in celebrating the inspiring women that are leading childhood education, literacy and equity efforts throughout our region.