July 2013

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work to inspire Woman Philanthropist of the Year Holly Cremer Berkenstadt believes it's not about who you are, but what you do—and there's so much you can do By Leigh Mills When you hear "Woman Philanthropist of the Year," what words come to mind? Leadership. Generosity. Enthusiasm. Commitment. Support. Role model. It's the perfect description for this year's inaugural United Way Women's Leadership Council Woman of the Year award recipient, Holly Cremer Berkenstadt. Berkenstadt has energetically supported many organizations and initiatives in Dane County for decades. She has served on the advisory boards for the Salvation Army and Second Harvest of Southern Wisconsin, the executive committee of A Fund For Women, the board of directors for United Way, Madison Community Foundation and Wisconsin Partnership for Housing Development, the United Way vision council and the Dane County W-2 steering committee. "You don't have to be of a certain stature or have a certain amount of money," explains Berkenstadt, "It's really about supporting your passions and things that will make a difference that are important to you." She currently serves on the board of directors for Meriter Health Services, the Madison College Foundation and the United Way Foundation. She is also the chair of the DAIS (Domestic Abuse Intervention Services) Capital Campaign and serves on the organization's board of trustees. And that is where Berkenstadt's focus is right now: raising enough money to open a new shelter for domestic violence victims and their families. "DAIS is so important. I want to bring awareness to this issue and put domestic violence in the public eye to show we all have a role to play to try to stamp it out. Most importantly, I want to give it a voice so that those who have suffered can stand proudly and get the assistance they need," she says. And when Berkenstadt gives something a voice, she doesn't just talk about it. She becomes emotionally invested in the cause. You'll often see her proudly wearing purple as a symbol of peace, courage, survival, honor and dedication to ending violence. Berkenstadt grew up in Dane County. Her parents started Wisconsin Cheeseman 67 years ago. She credits them with inspiring her to get involved. Today she encourages others to become fully engaged in causes they believe in, and is even inspiring the next generation, including her daughter, Becca, to be philanthropic leaders. "I would like to see the Gen Ys and Gen Xers taking it upon themselves to get involved," she says. "Many are busy building their careers and working with their children, but it's a great way to also network to lend your expertise. Many of the nonprofits could benefit from our young women in the community and their ideas." I met Berkenstadt when I became a member of the DAIS board of trustees. She is such a force that it still surprises me she takes the time to offer her feedback and support on a personal level, with her busy schedule. It's her dedication to improving the lives of every woman she meets that makes change happen in our community. One of her biggest assets is her advice, and she had this to share: "Get involved. Explore the possibilities. You don't have to say yes to everything. Choose the causes that resonate with you. It expands your horizons, and it's fun!" ••• Leigh Mills is the evening anchor at NBC 15 in Madison. She can be reached at Who gives the award: The United Way Women's Leadership Council, which is comprised of concerned local women dedicated to driving change in our community. 30 BRAVA Magazine What do they look for: The award recognizes a local Women's Leadership Council donor who made an impact through her philanthropic work and uses her talent and resources to inspire woman toward charitable leadership. July 2013 How to get involved: Become a member with a $100 minimum donation to the United Way Women's Leadership Council. For more information: Visit Photo by Bobbi Petersen A Quick Guide to the Woman of the Year Philanthropy Award

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