Amy Canterbury’s journey from a small town in Kentucky to a corner office of the nonprofit that tops Forbes’ list of 50 largest U.S. charities isn’t so much a Cinderella story as it is a hardworking tale of success.
In December, the United Way of Southwestern Indiana, a division of United Way serving Vanderburgh, Warrick, and Spencer counties, named Canterbury as its new president and CEO. It’s not the first time she’s had the title of CEO, and it’s her past that has prepared her for this new venture.
Whether she was attending church or helping out around the family’s farm, Canterbury grew up surrounded by the idea of taking care of one’s neighbors. After graduating from Murray State University, Murray, Kentucky, she spent 25 years in the banking industry – most of which were at Old National, which introduced her to United Way – learning business collaboration and networking before enduring what she calls a “mid-life crisis” and decided to go save the world.
“The things I learned in banking are the principles of what I needed to transition into nonprofit,” says Canterbury. “And then my heart, really the part of who I am, is what allowed me to transition to saving the world.”
Before joining the United Way, she was regional CEO of the American Red Cross, a partner agency. The transition between nonprofits was a smooth one thanks to the staff, which has helped her learn more of the details about the nonprofit and the services they offer the community.
In addition to funding 62 programs and 31 partner agencies, the United Way provides its own programs and services such as helping with FAFSA applications and its Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA). The VITA Program offers free tax help to low-to-moderate income residents who need assistance preparing their tax returns.
“We’re going to file electronically and we’re not going to charge them for it,” says Canterbury. “That keeps families and individuals from maybe going to get a payday loan advance while they’re waiting on a tax return.”
The organization also offers a 211 service, a statewide collaboration helmed through the Downtown office. The program is a resource for those looking for help with basic needs and social services, such as food, housing, and education. When someone presses 211 on a phone, the call is sent to the United Way office where an operator asks questions to make sure the best resources are being made available to them.
Going forward, Canterbury wants to see the nonprofit become the first place thought of if there needs to be an issue resolved, with the United Way sitting at the table collaborating with those who need to be.
“The community has always really supported the United Way in a huge way,” says Canterbury.
For more information about the United Way of Southwestern Indiana, call 812-422-4100 or visit unitedwayswi.org.