Cheryl Manley, Vice President and Senior Counsel of the Human Resources Department at Charter Communications, always knew she wanted to be a lawyer, but it took her a while to realize another calling: philanthropy.
“It was not emphasized when I was growing up; I did not know a lot about volunteering and giving,” Manley said.
As a self-proclaimed “Navy brat” growing up in Virginia Beach, Virginia, she always wanted a career where using logic was needed to succeed. Coupled with her inner desire to “compete with the boys,” the then male-dominated field of law was Manley’s perfect fit.
After graduating from Old Dominion University, Manley pursued her law degree at Saint Louis University. As a single mother working full time to provide for herself and her young daughter, she was not a typical law student.
Manley is thankful she had such supportive friends and family members during those trying times to help her achieve her dream of becoming a lawyer.
“Without their help, I could never have done it,” said Manley.
Receiving help from others inspired Manley to give back to the community. At SLU, she had one of her first experiences volunteering when serving as a “Big Sister” through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Missouri, a United Way supported agency, to a young girl in Washington Park, Illinois.
This simple act spring-boarded Manley’s life into one dedicated to volunteering. Ten years ago, she became a leadership giver (annual gift of $1,000-plus), and has continued to give to United Way ever since. Manley believes even small donations can greatly impact the lives of others.
“I did it because I realized giving $1,000 was not a hardship for me. That money can help a lot of people in need of assistance,” she said.
Manley also sits on the African American Leadership – Charmaine Chapman Society cabinet. She believes CCS is a great way for African Americans to impact the community as more than a third of clients helped by United Way agencies are African American.
“In St. Louis there are lots of African American professionals who have the means to help others who need it. Charmaine Chapman Society is an easy way to do that,” she said. “It’s a way for African Americans benefiting from United Way services to know other African Americans are the ones helping them.”
In addition to working with United Way, Manley is an active member on the executive board of Boys Hope Girls Hope, an agency that mentors underprivileged youth. During her time with the organization, Manley mentored six children (or “scholars” as they are called).
Not only does Manley enjoy giving back, she believes giving is an obligation.
“I give because I can; it is the right thing to do,” she said. “We all have an obligation to help others if we can, that is part of my faith and spiritual beliefs. There are lots of people out there who need guidance and assistance, people who are not as fortunate as I’ve been.”
Manley’s dedication has made a positive impact in the lives of the many children she mentored. The young girl Manley mentored all those years ago in Washington Park went on to follow in Manley’s footsteps; when she attended law school at Emory University.
Another young woman Manley currently mentors will continue her education this fall at Millikin University in Decatur, Illinois. Manley says through mentoring and hard work, these girls have overcome the hurdles created by poverty and disastrous home lives.
“It’s great they have a role model who looks like them, who shows them they can overcome the obstacles in their old way of life,” Manley said.” It is an awesome feeling to help these girls.”
Through her donations and mentoring, Manley is giving area children the same chances to succeed in life that she had. People like her who donate their time and money to the community, are truly making St. Louis a better place.
If you are interested in learning more about the African American Leadership ̶ Charmaine Chapman Society or donating to United Way in general, please contact Orvin Kimbrough at (314) 539-4249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.