Find out about one partnership that meant real support for Birmingham during the pandemic


YWCA and Truist
Maria Underwood, YWCA and Helen McDougald, Truist. Photo via Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now

YWCA Central Alabama is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. Truist is the sixth largest bank in the US, and they’re dedicated to making a difference in the communities they serve. Find out how these two organizations partnered during the pandemic and how it made them both better. 

Meet Helen McDougald, Commercial Banker at Truist and YWCA Junior Board Member

Helen McDougald of Truist
Helen McDougald of Truist. Photo via Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now

McDougald was born and raised in Birmingham. After graduating from the University of Georgia in 2011 with a degree in Finance, she joined one of Truist’s predecessor companies. 

McDougald manages commercial client relationships in the Greater Birmingham market. In her role, she coordinates with internal partners to provide ideas and solutions to help businesses reach their goals. 

McDougald and the YWCA go way back

  • YWCA playground
  • indoor classroom, YWCA

In high school, McDougald helped with the YWCA’s after-school program in downtown Birmingham. Upon moving back to The Magic City, she wanted to plug in to the community, so she returned to the organization she loved—the YWCA. 

Currently, she serves on the organization’s Junior Board, and on the committee for KIDS Corner, an annual event that supports the child development center.

According to Maria Underwood, YWCA Vice President of Development and Social Impact, the Junior Board is engaged with all facets of the organization, including:

  • The Child Development Center
  • Teacher Appreciation Week
  • Mother’s Day 
  • Social justice work
  • And more

“The YWCA does amazing work in our community. I particularly appreciate the work they do to provide education to children in homeless and low-income families. 

This work in education, especially in early childhood, changes the lives of many kids who would be in a very different situation without the opportunities provided by the Y.”

Helen McDougald, Truist

Meet Maria Underwood, Vice President, Development and Social Impact at YWCA Central Alabama

Maria Underwood YWCA
Maria Underwood of the YWCA. Photo via Jacob Blankenship for Bham Now

Maria Underwood is a fundraiser with an impressive track record. She’s worked with a number of organizations in Birmingham and in Washington, DC. 

We talked to Helen McDougald and Maria Underwood about what makes the Truist-YWCA partnership unique and why this matters. Here’s what they told us.

Truist has partnered with the YWCA during the pandemic in 3 key ways:

  • Junior Board: Helen McDougald’s service continues to impact various programs put on by the nonprofit.
  • Truist Foundation Grant: The grant allowed the YWCA to invest in technology infrastructure.
  • Lighthouse Project: In November 2020, a team of 10 from Truist joined YWCA employees in distributing Thanksgiving meals to approximately 200 families served by the YW. 

Learn more about Truist, who they are and what they do on their website.

Giving back to the community: Truist’s Lighthouse Projects

Thanksgiving at the YWCA
Truist served Thanksgiving to people involved with the downtown YWCA. Photo via YWCA Central Alabama

Lighthouse Projects are one of the key ways Truist gives back. Groups of employees volunteer time and company resources to a project that’s important to their particular area. 

According to McDougald, these projects are a great way to serve alongside teammates to do something positive in the communities where Truist works.

For the Truist volunteers, Thanksgiving was a high point in a rough time.  

“2020 was a challenging year for everyone, so it was particularly special for two reasons: 

1. Being with coworkers, many of whom we hadn’t seen in person in months. 

2. Providing food to be enjoyed by families, allowing them to make memories after a tough year.”

Helen McDougald, Truist

The difference this kind of support makes: the view from the YWCA

Thanksgiving with Truist at the YWCA
Thanksgiving at the YWCA. Photo via YWCA Central Alabama

Maria Underwood particularly appreciates the holistic nature of the partnership between the YWCA and Truist. 

“Donating meals, volunteering, serving on leadership committees, providing grants and sponsorship…holistically, Truist helps us in a way that engages every part of who we are. 

It’s nice to have partners that you can go to and know that if there’s a need, they’ll do what they can to help and support you. 

During COVID, we’ve had a lot of organizations that wanted to volunteer with us, but we couldn’t have people come into our space. Truist said ‘we want to do something—you let us know what you need and we’ll figure it out.’ 

They really stepped in to make sure that our families and our organization were supported, even during COVID. Their support didn’t waver with the events of the world.”

All in a day’s work: Truist serving communities

Children at the downtown YWCA. Photo via YWCA Central Alabama

While Truist’s partnership with the YWCA is unique in the ways Underwood mentioned, for McDougald, it’s part and parcel of how the company does business. 

“Truist is a purpose-driven organization, making decisions that support our purpose to ‘build better lives and communities.’ 

It takes a collective effort of our teammates to make this happen, and that starts with local involvement in our communities both through volunteer work and funding. 

It comes back to bringing all of our resources to bear to partner with organizations that are doing great work to make our communities a better place to live.”  

Want to learn more about Truist? Visit their website or follow them on LinkedIn or Instagram.

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Sharron Swain
Sharron Swain

Writer, Interviewer + Adventurer | Telling stories to make a difference

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