The Work of Advocacy

by Penne L. Richards, Director, Physician Recruitment & Relations at UMC Health System and Women United Steering Committee Member

It’s all about relationships, we were told during our United Ways of Texas advocacy training. Which, I believe, can be said about all worthy life endeavors. Attempts at building healthy relationships demonstrate that you care, and for me, the ideal way to foster a bond with someone, and to view a world through their lens, is to learn their story. But what about those unable to tell their story, those without the ability to voice their own narratives—such as the abused or neglected children in the community? Through the strong, growing membership of Lubbock Area United Way’s Women United and our signature issue—the prevention of child abuse and neglect—we strive to tell the stories for those who cannot, to shine light on a child’s darkness, so that the cycle of abuse and neglect can one day be severed.

As members of Women United, we are a part of a global, growing network of 75,000+ women leaders engaged in more than 165 communities across six countries. And we care earnestly for our community. When the opportunity to travel with Lubbock Area United Way to the Texas Capital during the 86 th Texas Legislative session was presented, a chance to augment the initial advocacy work that had begun in 2017, I knew I wanted to be a part of it.

On Tuesday morning, six of us from Women United—Sharmon Owens (co-chair), Debra Rogers, Paula Miser, Carolyn Simpson, Esther Felton, and I, piled into a rented SUV headed for Austin. Three more members—Heather Keister, Charlie Rowten and Val Cochran—met us there. At a reception that evening, Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman welcomed those in attendance. Guzman told her story—one of seven children born to Mexican immigrant parents—and the role United Way played when she was young. Guzman thanked the United Way volunteers, “the people you support, I’m one of them.”

Wednesday morning, fog covered the capitol, while inside the majestic architecture was awe-inspiring. Over breakfast, we reviewed our packed itinerary. Vital to our agenda was the success of the pre-arranged meetings with three West Texas legislators and their staffers: Representative John Frullo, Senator Charles Perry, and Representative Dustin Burrows.

Our approach was practiced, and we kept our meetings succinct, following a four-prong formula consisting of introductions, a pitch highlighting the 2019 West Texas Advocacy Agenda, a request for their support of our priorities, and a thank-you for their time. At the conclusion of each meeting, the staffers asked pertinent questions and expressed support.

The experience has further convinced me of the vital role child advocacy plays within our community and the positive impact people working together can accomplish. Every child deserves healthy relationships. “Together, we create lasting change to lift up entire communities.”—Women United, United Way Worldwide.


You can join United Way in advocating for the success of every person not only in the Lubbock Area but across West Texas. Learn more about the 2019 West Texas Advocacy Agenda and sign-up for updates.