How I Do More, Be More through United Way
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How I Do More, Be More through United Way

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Elizabeth Brenner (second from right) with former Teen Pregnancy Prevention Oversite Committee co-chair Bevan Baker, United Way’s Nicole Angresano, and SERVE Marketing’s Gary Mueller.

May 29, 2018

Written by Elizabeth Brenner, 2018 Linda T. Mellowes Award Winner, United Way Teen Pregnancy Prevention Oversight Committee co-chair, and retired publisher of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

I spent my entire professional life in the newspaper business. I worked at eight different newspapers in as many communities. Milwaukee is where we’ve stayed the longest, and I’m now delighted to call it home.

United Way has been part of my life since my first publisher job in Bremerton, WA (a town so small you might miss it if you blink.)

I’m keenly aware of the hurdles newspapers face in most cities. Many think they print nothing but bad news. They’re considered the harbingers of tough headlines and community shortcomings. The paper is considered to be aloof, distant and critical. The people who lead it are often judged as disconnected from the communities they serve.

That’s why I’ve always worked hard to dispel that notion and give back where I could. United Way was the best way to do that in any community.

I was eager to join Rockwell CEO Keith Nosbusch and Johnson Controls CEO Steve Roell to co-chair Milwaukee’s 2009 Community Campaign. Even though we had our hands out in the depths of the Great Recession, the generous and committed companies and individual donors of this city made sure we met our fundraising goal.

And in 2006, Health Commissioner Bevan Baker and I signed on to co-chair Milwaukee’s Teen Pregnancy Prevention Oversight Committee. Twelve years later – the entire city can be proud of meeting our ambitious – some say audacious – goal of reducing births to teens by 46%. Milwaukee ‘crushed’ that goal – hitting a 50% reduction in teen births, two years earlier than we hoped.

In 2006, Milwaukee was the second-worst city in the nation for our high rate of births to teens. Today, volunteers and leaders from across the country travel here to learn how we marshalled social services, Milwaukee Public Schools, the justice division, the funder community, faith leaders, the media, advertising and public relations and most importantly -teens themselves – to become a national leader in teen birth reductions.

Throughout my tenure as publisher, I was proud to acknowledge that the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did its job: holding a mirror up to Milwaukee and chronicling the best achievements and the challenging struggles of this great city. At the same time, I did my job: to engage and give back through United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County. I was just as proud to stand up and try to make a difference by doing my share to make our community better.

“We have to earn the right to criticize,” an old editor I once worked for liked to remind me.  That meant that newspapers had a special responsibility to do more, be more, and demonstrate that we cared about the city whose name graced our front page every day.

United Way gave me the opportunity to earn a role as a contributor to this very special place. Thank you to the partners, United Way staff and community leaders that enabled me to earn my part in giving back to Milwaukee.

The Women United Bruncheon may be sold out, but you can share in the excitement by following United Way on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Learn more about how you can make a difference for yourself and your community with Women United.

Donate new or like-new women’s work bags and purses and pack them with feminine hygiene products! Purses and work bags will be gifted to local women currently facing barriers to employment at United Way’s annual women’s job seminars this fall. 

Feminine hygiene products will be donated to Time of the Month Club.

Donations can be dropped off at United Way through June. For further details please visit


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