Board Member Spotlight: Heidi DeBenedetti
Relocating from snowy Colorado to sunny Florida, Heidi DeBenedetti has an established relationship with United Way and comes from an ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) family herself. She wants to make a strong and positive difference in her new community by helping as many individuals in need as possible in her board role as well as her professional position as Executive Vice President for Gilbane Building Company.
Tell us about your history and professional partnerships you’ve had with the United Way?
“Some of my previous and current employers have had long-standing relationships with the United Way in areas such as corporate giving where they’ve been contributing through the workplace for over 18 years. Gilbane, in particular, has a long history with United Way and it is one of our focus philanthropies. The chairman of the board, Tom Gilbane, Jr., is a proud champion and supporter of United Way, having held numerous board positions with United Way of Rhode Island – where our corporate headquarters are located. United Way’s mission directly aligns with Gilbane’s commitment to community and “building more than buildings.”
What drew you to the mission? Why United Way?
“I connect deeply with the ALICE mission. Growing up, we were an ALICE family. My mom was a single mom. That was our existence, so I can relate to that. I understand the uncertainty that comes with living ALICE and having to make the ‘best difficult choice.’
When I was in Colorado, I was a volunteer with Denver CASA, a court-appointed special advocate program, being an advocate in court for children. I found this to be another passion area. Most of the kids there are in a situation where their home life is not ideal. The goal is to keep the family together. Working through that, the objective is to bring social workers and community resources together. The United Way in Denver was a resource that was available to those families that provided support for them by helping them with decision making and other tough challenges.”
How do you “Live United”?
“I feel that having empathy and compassion is very important. If you watch the news, it can feel like there’s a lack of that in our society today. We have to understand that some families are dealing with circumstances and situations where they truly need help and that asking for and accepting help takes courage. Rather than judging or making assumptions, we should just offer a helping hand.”
How do you keep perspective? Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that keeps you centered?
“I have a coffee mug that says ‘your comfort zone will kill you.’ It’s a little hardcore but it’s a good reminder that I need to get out of my comfort zone and try new things.”