When Gregg Schroeder, President and CEO of United Way of the Coastal Empire, was a young boy growing up in the Midwest he enjoyed volunteering to help others, but never thought this service would be recognized by an international organization at the United Way Community Leaders Conference in Orlando.
Schroeder credits his parents for making sure he and his six siblings knew the importance of giving back to the community.
“Really, volunteerism is something I grew up with in the Midwest,” said Schroeder, “I gave back to the community whether it was contributing financially or giving back my time.”
His father owned a department store which was an anchor of the community. Schroeder mentions that everyone in town knew his father and his family’s name because of the popularity of the store. “I’m proud to say it still stands today,” said Schroeder.
Schroeder enjoyed working with other people which led him to become a little league coach. The thing he liked most about the baseball is knowing it wasn’t about winning or losing the game, but about the emotions and relationships that were built.
He was later able to pass this life lesson on to his two son’s teams, which he coached and to his daughter.
His altruistic endeavors led him to begin a career with the international non-profit organization United Way.
He began his career in 1985 in Atlanta as the chief financial officer of United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta. He later became the chief operating officer for Heart of American United Way in Kansas City before becoming president for United Way of the Coastal Empire in 2002.
Schroeder admired the values of the organization which matched the values his parents imparted on him.
“I didn’t think I would be able to work for another organization for the rest of my life,” said Schroeder. “I thought it was the right fit and the right calling and probably something I would do for the rest of my life and it’s worked out that way.”
Being a part of this organization has felt like a calling to Schroeder and within each city different programs were put in place to service the needs in the community.
Vice President of Georgia Power Land Department and Former Board Chair, Cathy Hill is appreciative of Schroeder’s collaborative leadership style of bringing different people together.
“Under Gregg’s leadership, the United Way of the Coastal Empire has been an incubator for new methods of serving some of the longstanding, deeply rooted needs in our communities,” Hill said. “He provided leadership that was principled, inclusive, and collaborative so that new ideas could be nurtured into productive programs.”
One project created in Savannah was the Lady Bamford Early Learning Center at the Wesley Community Centers of Savannah. This education center provides 83 homeless and low-income children six-weeks to four years of age the skills needed to obtain a good education.
It was under Schroeder’s leadership that this program was brought to the Savannah area.
“I know in Savannah starting the Lady Bamford Early Education Center and bringing that to the community is something that I’m very proud of,” said Schroeder, “but I really think I’m most proud of the people that I work with every day.”
Board Chair and Market President of Ameris Bank, Jenny Gentry can attest to the fact that Schroeder is great at maintaining and developing those key relationships. Gentry says he takes the time to get to know the people in Savannah and it comes from a place of sincerity.
Now, after 32 years of service and working with three different United Way networks he was awarded for his hard work and dedication to this international organization at the United Way Community Leadership Conference in Orlando.
Even though he appreciates this honor, the real honor to Schroeder is being able to meet and work with so many different people every day.
“It felt good [to be recognized] and I realized that it’s not about obtaining one, particular position,” said Schroeder, “it’s really more about…appreciating the journey and all the people you get to meet and interact with along the way.”