Educate, Engage, Activate

Women’s History Month 2024 Honoree: Marianne DiBlasi

Women’s History Month 2024 Interview

Marianne DiBlasi grew up in Winchester. She works with nonprofits in various capacities including board chair of the Winchester Farmers Market Community Hub, editor of Disability Issues newsletter, steering committee member of Mystic River Watershed Association’s Mystic Lakes Path Improvement Project, speaker bureau member for Green Burial MA, certified trainer of the Powerful Tools for Caregivers workshop for Minuteman Senior Services, and, at The Jenks, she is on the solo ager planning committee to support people who don’t have a reliable support system as they age.

What motivated you to choose or start working with the nonprofit organization(s) you have worked with?

A key part of my decision is based on asking myself: am I passionate about the mission and am I the right person to contribute what is needed including skills, life experience, and enthusiasm? In each of these nonprofit organizations, the answer was “yes” for different reasons. However, a common theme that runs through them is they respond to various unmet needs in the community that are also important to me.  

What have been some of the highlights of your work?

At The Jenks Center, I am delighted to collaborate with a planning committee comprised of solo agers in a grassroots effort to develop a Solo Ager Network for older adults who don’t have sufficient support from adult children, close family members or friends. It’s important for all people who are aging to know what services are available and put a plan in place before they need it, especially for solo agers. Yet, many people don’t know where to begin so we are creating a supportive community to learn from and with each other. We launched our first event on March 6 and have speakers lined up for April 11 and May 14, 10:30 AM at The Jenks Center. 

What are some of your goals for yourself, as a leader of the nonprofit(s) you are working with?

People who work in nonprofits are usually there because they care deeply about the mission. Staff often work for lower wages and volunteers freely contribute their time. Whether I’m a team member or in a leadership role, my goal is to work collaboratively and value the contribution of each person’s unique skills and perspectives to create something greater than any one of us can create individually.

Do you feel you faced particular challenges, and/or had particular advantages, as a woman doing this work?

Women in our culture often have more permission to express a wider range of emotions. In passion-related work, this can be an advantage. I am fortunate to work with wonderful leaders and team members who respect my heartfelt contributions, which are influenced by my gender as well as other identities. 

Since this is a month honoring women, is there a woman who has inspired you and why?

I often remind myself and others of Maya Angelou’s wise words, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” These words inspire me to foster learning communities where we are encouraged to explore possibilities, try something new, and celebrate what is learned, especially when it doesn’t work out the way we intended.

What advice would you like to share with young people, especially young women, who are considering working in the nonprofit community?

Engage in organizations whose mission you are passionate about. After the initial adrenaline of excitement wears off, your passion for the mission will fuel your ongoing commitment as challenges arise. Be part of creating a mutually supportive culture by asking for what you need and offering what you can.

Is there anything else you would like to share?

In my experience, the most vibrant nonprofits are those whose staff and volunteers reflect the diversity of the communities they serve. When each person is valued for their unique identities, backgrounds and lived experiences, the organization is stronger and better able to provide relevant services to meet the needs of the community.

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