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United Way honors 'Woman of the Year'
Kay Ford
Kay Ford, second from right, was as the 2023 United Way “Woman of the Year.”

United Way of the Coastal Empire's Women Who Rule event, held at the Savannah Convention Center, raised critical support for transportation needs across four Coastal Empire counties. 

Presented by Step One Automotive Group, the event honored longtime banking executive, community leader, and United Way donor and volunteer Kay Ford as the 2023 United Way “Woman of the Year.”

The annual luncheon, chaired this year by Cecilia Tran Arango of Thomas & Hutton, was held March 14 with a sold-out crowd of 800 in attendance. During the event, guests also enjoyed 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 led by Cecilia Tran Arango.

Championed by United Way’s Women Who Rule Committee, this popular annual event raises funds for residents across our region who need dependable transportation. Each year an average of 2,000 individuals/families in Bryan, Chatham, Effingham, and Liberty counties 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 Cecilia Tran Arango. “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. Over 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!”


United Way’s Woman of the Year Kay Ford is the current chairman of the BankSouth Advisory Board for the Savannah market. In her role, Ford promotes the bank’s commitment to serving the Savannah community. In addition, she serves on the fiduciary board of BankSouth and was formerly the chief banking officer, serving the bank’s markets throughout the state. A former president and CEO of SunTrust Bank, Savannah, Ford retired after serving 41 years there. She held numerous senior-level positions within retail banking and private wealth management, including the position of senior vice president of Private Wealth Management. She is a graduate of Leadership Savannah and Leadership Georgia. She currently chairs the Savannah Technical College Foundation Board and is the chair-elect for the Savannah Economic Development Authority. Her long record of service on community-driven boards includes United Way of the Coastal Empire, where she was the 2016 campaign chair; the Memorial Health Foundation of Memorial Health Medical Center; the Savannah Fund for Excellence in Education; St. Mary's Home, as well as past chair of the Housing Authority of Savannah. As an elected official, she 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 Kay 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 moving us forward!" 


Ford and her husband, Bob, have three children: Poppy Brown and Jaime Miller, both of whom reside in the local area and their son, Robert Ford, who is a Master Sergeant serving in the US Air Force currently stationed in Florida. Together, they have seven grandchildren.

“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, United Way of the Coastal Empire.  


Grant added, “Cecilia Tran Arango’s leadership as event chair ensured the event successfully achieved its mission to raise much-needed funds to provide transportation assistance for women and caregivers while also being a really fun time for all of our guests.” 


Those interested in giving to the Women United Transportation Fund can donate online at If you donate $100 or more, you have the opportunity to nominate a woman who rules in your world through the Honor A Woman Campaign. United Way will recognize them through its social media throughout the month of March. Learn more at

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