Mile High United Way Announces $1 Million Gift at 25th Annual Women United Luncheon


Jenn Kostka Beck

Luncheon Raised Over $420,000 to Provide Women with Access to Critical Resources

DENVER – Mile High United Way’s efforts to support early childhood education are even stronger today, thanks to a $1 million gift from Paul and Sue Sparks announced at the 25th Annual Women United Luncheon. In recognition of the gift, the name of the new child care center at the organization’s headquarters in Five Points will be The Tamara M. Sparks Early Learning Center at Mile High United Way after Paul’s mother.

“This early childhood center represents what is possible when we stand united to meet our community’s needs,” Christine Benero, Mile High United Way president and CEO, said at the luncheon. “A heartfelt thank you to Paul and Sue Sparks for helping make this dream a reality. And thank you to everyone here today who has supported this dream.”

For 25 years, Mile High United Way has brought our community together to celebrate the power of women and girls at our Women United Luncheon, raising $5 million total during that time. On Friday, March 22, 2024, nearly 900 people attended the 25th annual luncheon at the Sheraton Denver Downtown Hotel, raising over $420,000, and still counting, to support Mile High United Way’s high-impact community programs to address the biggest challenges facing women and girls in Metro Denver.

Mile High United Way also celebrated 25 years of recognizing a woman leader who has made a difference in the lives of women and families with the Frances Wisebart Jacobs Award. Wisebart Jacobs, known as Colorado’s Mother of Charities, was a dedicated leader who made an indelible mark on Colorado and was the driving force behind the creation of many of Colorado’s iconic institutions and organizations, including Mile High United Way, Jewish Family Service of Colorado and National Jewish Health.

The 2024 Frances Wisebart Jacobs Award recipient is Lindsay Filsinger, community leader, wife, mother, philanthropist and businesswoman from Denver. For more than a decade, she has supported efforts to increase opportunities for women and girls and is passionate about expanding access to early childhood care and education for Metro Denver families. In addition to supporting Women United and Mile High United Way, Lindsay sits on the boards of St. Joseph Hospital Foundation and Escuela De Guadalupe, where she previously served as board chair.

“Receiving this Mile High United Way award and being forever linked with the most incredible philanthropist is one of the most humbling honors I have ever received,” Filsinger said. “Frances Wisebart Jacobs embodies everything I could dream of being when I think of helping my community.”

Attendees also had the opportunity to hear from guest speaker Sheryl Lee Ralph, Emmy Award-winning actress from ABC’s comedy series “Abbott Elementary,” where she plays kindergarten teacher Barbara Howard. She was also nominated for a Tony Award for the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls and has appeared in dozens of TV, film and stage productions.

“Don’t play down. Don’t play small. Don’t dim your light. Let people know, ‘This is who I am. Hello and who are you?’” she told the audience during her powerful, inspirational discussion with Benero.  

Before hearing from Ralph, Mile High United Way unveiled the newly designed logo for The Tamara M. Sparks Early Learning Center. The center, which will serve both Mile High United Way staff members and families in the surrounding community, will provide nearly 60 child care slots for children ages newborn to 5, with 70% of the slots designated for low-income families.

Tamara M. Sparks was a loving and joyful sister, mother and grandmother, who dedicated much of her life to ministering to thousands of children, her family said.

“You always felt like one of the family with my mom. It really didn’t matter where you were coming from or how she met you. You were front and center in that moment of her life,” said her son, Paul. “I’m excited to see the new Tamara M. Sparks Early Learning Center bustling with lots of children and teachers, just enjoying the space and being able to have a place that in a lot of cases they wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for the help of Mile High United Way.”

Mile High United Way will hold a community celebration for the opening of the new early learning center 9:30-11 a.m., May 18, 2024, at the organization’s headquarters at 711 Park Ave. West. Learn more.

The Women United Luncheon was presented by HealthONE. The Speaker Sponsor was BOK Financial. Strong Sponsors were Southwest and Empower. Broadcast Sponsor was CBS Colorado and Print Sponsor was 5280 Magazine. Confident Sponsors were CoBank, Davis Graham & Stubbs, PCL Construction, Suncor and Xcel Energy. Determined Sponsors were Amazon, Chevron, Connect for Health Colorado, Deloitte, EY, KeyBank, Molson Coors, Mortenson, Northern Trust and Vectra Bank Colorado.

About Mile High United Way

Working side-by-side with the community, Mile High United Way takes on critical human services issues facing our seven-county footprint, including the Metro Denver, Boulder and Broomfield communities. Our united approach changes the odds for all children, families, and individuals in our community, so that all have the opportunity to succeed. Learn more at and follow us on social media @UnitedWayDenver.

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