United Way Volunteer Spotlight: Wilmetta Toliver-Diallo

The Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition operates on the belief that every child deserves a place to call home. This could be through adoption, or by creating a stable and safe environment for youth in foster care. They provide programs to serve families, youth in foster care, and advocacy efforts so that every child has a chance to see the future they want to see. Their holistic approach provides physical resources as well as emotional and mental support to strengthen families, and they’ve been nationally recognized for their 30 Days to Family program, which builds connections within a child’s extended family. 

Wilmetta Toliver-Diallo (left) supports Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition as a volunteer and board member.

Wilmetta Toliver-Diallo, Ph.D., has been a volunteer and advocate for youth in foster care since 2009. As Assistant Dean in the College of Arts & Sciences, she has coordinated the McLeod Day of Service for the Ervin Scholars Program and various volunteer opportunities for students as part of the Freshman Summer Academic Program. While foster care is her passion, she is now aware of the scope of agencies served by the United Way of Greater St. Louis and can connect students with their agency of choice. 

Whatever social issue keeps you up at night, there is an agency in St. Louis serving in that area. United Way helps those organizations strengthen and enhance the services provided in the region; they make connections that enable agencies to collaborate, which is so important in making our community stronger.

Wilmetta Toliver-Diallo on the importance of engaging in service activities for the St. Louis community

It’s a family affair

Wilmetta’s passion for helping youth in foster care led her to volunteer for “Little Wishes”, a program where volunteers work as elves to help ensure children in the foster care system are not overlooked during the holiday season. She says this project helps her feel connected to her grandmother, who was passionate about working with youth and wanted to make sure every child felt special at special times of the year, like holidays and birthdays. Her daughter, Coumba Diallo, has also volunteered with the foster care system through the Girl Scouts. Wilmetta proudly shared how her daughter taught her about the disadvantages older teens face within the system, and what emotional and mental health challenges youth in foster care have to contend with. 

We are all connected in this human race. What I have to give, you can take. I can’t be me without you being you and vice versa. It is important to keep that circle of life in mind; to give and understand how connected we all really are. 

Toliver family philosophy
Wilmetta Toliver-Diallo (third from the left) and other volunteers at Old Bags, a designer handbag auction 

After volunteering as an elf for several years, Toliver-Diallo learned more about the scope of the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition and began to branch out. Although she is “first and foremost a Little Wishes elf”, her volunteer activities now also include Old Bags, a designer handbag and jewelry auction event with proceeds supporting foster and adoption resource center, and the Cinderella Project, which helps teens get clothes and accessories for prom. She loves helping kids feel like part of the community, and that their economic status doesn’t impact their experience. 

In 2016, Wilmetta was asked to join the Board of Directors, which she credits as an eye-opening experience that helped her understand all of the advocacy work the organization does. “It’s not just about increasing the number of families who can foster,” Toliver-Diallo explains, “but it’s also equipping them with the resources they need to be successful.” This can include financial help, emotional health resources like workshops and training on how to be a foster parent and how to find mental health resources, providing students with educational advocates, while also striving to increase permanency. Then there’s going to Jefferson City to advocate for legislation that makes life better for youth in foster care. They’re currently working on resources that target older teens and can help them as they transition out of the foster care system. 

Foster care is important to our region. Each year Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition serves more than 13,000 children and families. Helping youth and vulnerable populations strengthens our entire community.

Serving on the United Way allocation panel for eight years also helped her realize just how many agencies exist to serve the St. Louis community, and how much donations are going directly to the agencies, not to overhead. If a local organization is struggling to provide services, United Way offers training and resources to help them adapt, meet quality standards, and better serve the community. Wilmetta credits the United Way with making it possible for more agencies to give and operate. 

WashU encourages you to give back to St. Louis organizations you support through giving and/or service opportunities. To support Wilmetta’s efforts and the St. Louis community, consider donating your time, money, or other resources to the United Way of Greater St. Louis and the more than 160 agencies in our region with whom they partner. If you’d like to learn more about the Foster & Adoptive Care Coalition, attend one of their monthly Lunch & Learns.