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We’re at the lawyers’ office signing final merger documents. From left Emery Ivery, Tampa Bay area president; Brian Deming, United Way Tampa Bay board chair; Kim Hopper, United Way Sarasota board chair; Katie Knight, Sarasota area president; and me, Suncoast President/CEO.

With the first of July came the dawn of a new day for United Way on Florida’s Gulf Coast.  United Way Suncoast was born. United Way of Tampa Bay, serving Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, and United Way of Sarasota County, serving Sarasota and DeSoto counties, are now unified.

United Way volunteer leadership spent two years exploring the opportunities associated with a more regional United Way structure. It is now a reality.

The real work of United Way will continue to be local. Our new structure maintains our tradition of local leadership by staff and volunteers, local presence with area offices and programming, and local decision-making regarding the investment of funds raised. Our focus remains funding local agencies and creating programs that target education, income and health. But the regional identity helps United Way Suncoast have a larger presence in the region, which will translate into more resources available to help people.

The major benefits of the new structure include:
•    The ability to increase capacity to deliver on United Way’s mission and community impact priorities by pooling resources and sharing knowledge.
•    The opportunity to minimize costs and maximize best practices in all aspects of the United Way work locally and around the region.
•    The ability to provide the best possible opportunities and experiences for donors, acknowledging the live-work patterns of individuals and the interests of our regional corporate and community partners.

I will serve as President and CEO of the new regional organization. Local area boards will remain in place, supported by area presidents, local staff, and local offices. Gary L. Sasso, President and CEO of Carlton Fields, P.A. is the incoming board chair of the new United Way Suncoast.On the staff side, Katie Knight is the new Sarasota area president and Emery Ivery is the new Tampa Bay area president.

I’m proud to be part of United Way, whose vision and passion to improve the lives of others throughout Florida, the U.S., and around the world have been recognized by numerous civic and corporate leaders. In more than nine decades of service in west central Florida, millions of deserving people have been helped throughout DeSoto, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Sarasota counties. This is accomplished through mobilizing the tens of thousands of generous individual and corporate donors, and countless volunteers, who understand that when you reach out a hand to one, you influence the condition of all.

You can learn more about our new organization at  I hope you will watch us grow as we bring the best of both regions together.


Diana Baker, President and CEO United Way Suncoast


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