Andy Janson has always believed in helping others and addressing social issues. This is why when an opportunity arose in 2014 to work with United Way of Southwest Michigan, he jumped on it.
“It’s a great place to be,” Andy says. “They do some incredible work.”
Andy, 53, of St. Joseph, has been working as board chair for United Way for the last three years.
United Way of Southwest Michigan is one of more than 1,300 United Way branches in the United States.
United Way works with donors and agencies to aid communities within the country by identifying underlying causes of social issues and developing strategies and financial solutions to deal with those issues, according to the organization’s website.
“We are working together to raise our communities up,” Andy said. “We are working to address a number of issues that are specific to each community.”
As board chair, Andy says that he does a little bit of everything for the organization, including public relations work and working closely with United Way of Southwest Michigan’s board and president.
In the three years he has been working for United Way, Andy says that he has been inspired by the people around him and that he finds his work personally fulfilling.
“I really like the work that they are doing in the community and the wide net that they cast in terms of helping people in so many different areas,” Andy says. “I love the passion that [the president, Anna Murphy] and her staff have for the community and the work that they do.”
Andy’s love for service work began long before he began his stint as board chair for United Way. Having gone to catholic schools from sixth grade through college, Andy says that his education in service began at a young age.
“Catholic school and my family are probably the number one reasons I grew to love volunteerism,” Andy says. “My father and mother were always volunteering for things when I was growing up. I was exposed to it at a young age and it was fostered through my education.”
Even with decades of volunteerism under his belt, Andy says that some of his most fulfilling work has taken place during his time at United Way, as his position allows him to see the tangible effects of the work.
“You can see the effects of [United Way’s] work first hand,” he says. “You don’t have to travel far. It’s right under your nose. You can see it, people getting helped every day. It’s a great feeling.”
In particular, Andy says he is looking forward to holiday work with United Way, as the organization partners with the Salvation Army to provide meals to families in need and to help economically disadvantaged families provide gifts for their children.
Last year, Andy helped pick out and procure gifts for underprivileged families, something he called “nearly indescribable.”
“I could have done it full-time. It was so fulfilling,” Andy says. “A lot of the stuff wasn’t the most expensive, but seeing how happy it made those parents to know they would have something to put under that tree, it really makes all of the work worth it. It’s rewarding to make people happy, which is why I do all of this.”

How to give:

To donate to United Way of Southwest Michigan or to learn about volunteer opportunities, visit the organization’s website at


Photography by Wes Jerdon/Westley Leon Studios