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Steve & Sarah Kumagai


How long have you been involved with United Way? For many people who are close to United Way that’s a question that they haven’t thought much about. That was a question that we asked Board member Steve Kumagai recently. His answer was extraordinary. In this, Greater Twin Cities United Way’s centennial year, Steve has been a loyal supporter for 50 of those 100 years.

His involvement has a unique beginning. Unlike many, Steve’s United Way journey starts, not in the workplace as part of a company campaign, but in high school when he was student council president at West St. Paul’s Sibley High School. As a young leader he participated in United Way activities and took a bus tour with other youth leaders to visit United Way partner agencies to get a first-hand look at the issues and hardships facing the community. That was 1965. His eyes open to the needs of his community, Steve made a commitment to get involved and support the community through United Way.


Steve describes his visits to the agencies as incredibly impactful and something that he still considers formative to his charitable philosophy to this day – one that he and his wife, Sarah, have imparted on their daughters. “I think that the first visit at the agencies lasts with you a lifetime,” he explains. “Those visits were very eye-opening to me.”

From that day forward, Steve pledged to donate at least two percent of his income (identified at the time as a United Way “fair share” sum). “That summer in high school I think I earned $600, so I gave $12 to United Way, and then through the years that percentage just kind of stuck with me,” Steve said.

In a meeting at his office this summer for this interview, Steve was able to impart this experience to a United Way summer intern who was tasked with finding ways to engage high school students now. People want to help people, so in 2015 Steve’s transformative experience upon visiting local agency partners as a high school student, still seems a viable strategy 50 years later.

Throughout his life and career as a financial advisor, Steve has continued to stay involved with United Way. His support includes membership to the Tocqueville Society, active participation and leadership in United Way campaigns at his workplace, and service on several committees, including the Board of Directors, Community Impact Committee, Executive Committee and Safety Net Committee. Along with the personal joy he receives from giving to United Way, Steve appreciates the great connections and friendships he’s been able to form.


Recently, Steve and Sarah generously included a planned gift to United Way in their estate plan—ensuring that their support for United Way and the greater Twin Cities community will continue for generations come. Steve said that he and his wife felt compelled to make their gift because of their deep passion for United Way’s mission to build pathways out of poverty and their trust in the organization’s future longevity. “I don’t know if some other nonprofit organizations will be there in 30 years, but I’m pretty sure that United Way will be,” Steve said.

While he supports other causes nationally and internationally, Steve said he feels a deep sense of commitment to support his local community in a way that creates the biggest and most lasting impact. “United Way is my local giving, because it addresses the difficult needs in the community,” Steve said. “Creating a bridge out of poverty and measuring its impact to make sure it works.”

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