Women United Member Spotlight: Kirsten Casteel
As the Eli Lilly global philanthropy consultant and Women United chair, it’s safe to say that Kirsten has a serious passion for giving back to the community she loves. “I attribute a lot of it to my family. I can remember holidays as a kid spent around a table with both family and my parents' workers or friends from church, whom my parents invited because they had nowhere else to go,” Kirsten said. “My whole life they’ve led by example and instilled in me the values of giving and caring for others.”
Kirsten’s faith has played a big role in her philanthropy, as well. In fact, it was while on a mission trip in New York City that Kirsten, who was going through a tough, transitional time in her own life, had a break through moment after witnessing a woman wander the hotel and prostitute herself day after day. “I just started bawling. I thought about my young son and how I would do whatever it took to provide a good life for him. If not for my family, for that support system I had to lean on, could that have been me?” Kirsten said. “It just really hit home that the people we serve aren’t that different from me, they just weren’t blessed with the same support. It broke my heart.” And that’s when Kirsten realized giving back was more than a passion, it was a calling.
After that, she began getting more involved with United Way, especially through her own career, which led to Kirsten’s involvement with Women United. “I was really attracted to the idea of being around like-minded women,” she said. “It’s been a powerful feeling to engage our community and make a difference with these women.”
But to Kirsten, the most powerful Women United experiences have been building literacy kits for local pre-k children. “Having those hands-on opportunities to put those kits together with books, crayons, pencils, it’s so rewarding – especially when we see the kids’ faces light up as we present them with their very own kit” Kirsten said.
Again, she could relate her experience back to pieces of her own life. “My son had a little bookcase at home filled with books just for him. He could explore those stories and practice his reading any time,” she said. “It felt so good knowing that we were doing something to help a child who maybe wasn’t afforded that same opportunity at home.”
In Kirsten’s mind, that’s what being part of Women United is all about – having a real impact in the community and being part of something bigger than yourself. “If you have a call to give back, you find time to plug that into your life in ways that work you, your family and your current season of life,” she said.