United Way of the Coastal Empire hosts Women Who Rule fundraising luncheon, honors Kay Ford

Updated March 15, 2023 at 11:36 a.m.


On Tuesday, March 14, United Way of the Coastal Empire held their annual Women Who Rule luncheon at the Savannah Convention Center. Presented by Step One Automotive Group, the sold-out event was attended by about 800 people, who came together to surpass the United Way’s fundraising goal of $20,000 that day. The funds raised will help meet transportation needs for residents across the four-county Coastal Empire region. Each year, an average of 2,000 individuals or families receive support in the form of gas cards, bus passes and even minor car repairs thanks to this effort. 

“This year’s 2023 Women Who Rule event was a great success as we raised critical dollars for transportation needs in our region,” said Thomas & Hutton’s Cecilia Tran Arango, who chaired the event. “These funds will help our friends and neighbors throughout the Coastal Empire access dependable transportation so they can provide for their families, get their children to and from school safely, go to the doctor and access other critical resources.”

During the luncheon, Kay Ford was honored as the 2023 United Way “Woman of the Year.” Ford is a longtime bank executive, local leader and United Way donor and volunteer whose impact is felt throughout the community.

She is the current chairman of the BankSouth advisory board for the Savannah market and is a former president and CEO of Suntrust Bank, Savannah, where she spent 41 years. Through the years, she has held numerous senior-level positions within retail banking and private wealth management but still made time to serve her community wherever she could. 

Ford’s long record of service on community-driven boards includes United Way of the Coastal Empire, the Memorial Health Foundation of Memorial Health Medical Center, the Savannah Fund for Excellence in Education, St. Mary’s Home and the Housing Authority of Savannah. As an elected official, she also served on the Savannah-Chatham County Board of Education and Garden City’s City Council. 

“Being from here, I can say this is a special place that we get to call home, and I have always been proud to give back to our community,” said Ford. “I am very humbled and grateful for this honor. It is my hope that women in our community will continue to rule and keep us moving forward!” 

Her commitment to community and firm leadership made her a clear choice for the Woman of the Year distinction. 

“It is an honor to recognize Kay Ford. She works tirelessly for this community she loves and for United Way of the Coastal Empire specifically over many years. She still serves on several United Way committees even today, and we are so grateful for her countless contributions that have made our community better,” said Brynn Grant, president & CEO of United Way of the Coastal Empire. 

After Ford was awarded, the luncheon concluded with a panel discussion with Citi Trends Executive Vice President of Human Resources and Chief Compliance Officer Ivy D. Council, clinical social worker and Chair of the Bryan County Board of Education Amy Perkins-Murphy, and Savannah Joint Development Authority Director of Workforce Maria Whitfield. Arango led the panel and closed the event by thanking everyone who made it possible.

“More than 30 women volunteered their time and talents on the 2023 Women Who Rule committee to make it successful, and I am thankful for every one of them,” she said.

To learn more about United Way of the Coastal Empire, visit uwce.org/.

Published March 15, 2023 at 4:00 a.m.

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