Grand Circle Foundation Honors Big Sister CEO, Deborah Re
Like Boston-based Grand Circle Foundation, which helps support communities and schools throughout the world (including Boston), the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston serves as a valuable resource to its constituents—young women who call this area home. That's why, at Grand Circle Foundation's annual dinner, held on April 6, Grand Circle Foundation Chair Harriet Lewis was thrilled to recognize Deborah Re—CEO of the Big Sister Association—with the foundation's highest award: the Lewis Changing People's Lives Award for 2010. Presented to an individual who has "achieved outstanding results, despite overcoming extraordinary obstacles, and has significantly impacted the lives of others through risk-taking, entrepreneurial spirit, and leadership," this annual award acknowledges the importance of contributing to those in the communities where we live, work, and travel.
Growing up in Boston with loving parents and five older brothers, Deborah Re (pictured at left, far right) knew she was fortunate. Yet, even as a child, she longed for the companionship of an older woman who was not an authority figure like a parent or a teacher. "I would have benefited from the support and guidance of a mentor." she says. In other words, a Big Sister.
That, in a nutshell, is the idea behind the organization she now leads, the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston. As CEO for nearly the past five years—leading a staff of 30 full-time employees, as well as part-time workers, interns, and high school students—Deb is the driving force behind her organization's mission. But Deborah's path to the helm of the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston was not a straightforward one. In fact, as she puts it, she came "full circle," having started her career as a fourth-grade teacher. "It was my most joyful year," she recalls. "What I loved was the children's transformation and their excitement about learning. They were nine-year-olds, and they were excited every day."
Although she left teaching to work in financial services for 16 years, Deborah is glad to have returned to an organization that offers that same sense of passion about transforming young lives. "It's a strength-based program," she says. "Helping young girls reach their potential and nurturing their strengths is the same as teaching to me." Founded in 1951 with a mission of helping girls realize their full potential through positive mentoring relationships with women, the Big Sister Association now serves more than 2,700 young women in 69 cities and towns within the greater Boston area. While most Big Sister/Little Sister interactions are one-on-one, the organization is taking an active approach toward involving the community at large.
With that shared interest in community—and in changing people's lives for the better—between these two organizations, it's no surprise that Deb Re was pleased to join Grand Circle Foundation's Community Advisory Group. "As a member of our Community Advisory Group, Deb is someone I count on to challenge us and push us to reach our goals," says Harriet Lewis. And as the thriving Big Sister Association of Great Boston marks its 60th anniversary this year, Deb Re was an equally natural choice to receive the Lewis Changing People's Lives Award for 2010. Most importantly, Big Sister Association has a dedicated leader in place as the organization launches into a new decade. "Deb Re is a true gutsy leader who is never afraid to make a tough decision," says Harriet Lewis. "She risked everything by fighting for her vision and focus, and I don't doubt she'd do it again."
Featured in our April 2011 E-Newsletter. Read the full issue here.