Charitable Champion Q&A 4Her: Debbi Weinberg, Founder of Girls Empowerment Mission (GEM)
Debbi Weinberg‘s passion for giving back can be traced back to her twenty years of working for the Baltimore County Public School system. While working for Chesapeake High School’s dropout prevention program called “Maryland’s Tomorrow,” Weinberg thought up the idea of combining her love of education and assisting under-privileged youth. With that thought, GEM (Girls Empowerment Mission) was born.
Find out more about GEM and Debbi’s devotion to giving back in this inspiring Charitable Champions Q&A 4Her interview!
Why did you decide to become a business owner?
I am in the business of giving. For twenty years, I worked for the Baltimore County Public School System. First as a teacher and then as a Guidance Counselor. My last five years in BCPS, I worked in a dropout prevention program called “Maryland’s Tomorrow” at Chesapeake High School. It was there that my “business” idea came to me. I was working with many students who had so much potential but not the support, environment and opportunity to reach it that I decided to create a mentoring program with a large support, educational component to help students with potential and motivation to excel and break out of the cycle of poverty they were born into. My students were dealing with abusive homes, teenage pregnancy, drugs and alcohol issues, gangs and violence and needed help staying focused and out of trouble so I created and founded Girls’ Empowerment Mission to work with girls from under-served communities who wanted to make something of themselves.
What in hindsight would you say you underestimated about your industry or business and why?
When you are in a helping profession working with at-risk populations, you never realize the tremendous amount of layers and complexity involved with just one student. It never ceases to amaze me, how complicated one little life can be and how much help, resources and nurturing it takes to help and to heal.
What is the best business related advice you have ever been given?
Although it’s not necessarily business advice, it is one of my mantra’s: Ghandi said “Be the change you wish to see in the world” and that is how I operate. I hope others do the same, as our world would be a much better place if everyone helped someone!
How have you chosen to be a Charitable Champion?
As you have heard, my life is dedicated to championing for the underdog. When I left my position in Baltimore County to run GEM full time, I gave up my salary and now work 24-7 as a volunteer. The GEM budget, run through the Living Classrooms, does not include a salary for an Executive Director. I am extremely fortunate to receive the unbelievable rewards of satisfaction and relationships with the girls we serve and the knowledge that GEM is changing lives.
What is your favorite charitable cause and why?
Clearly, GEM is my favorite cause. We are truly making a difference to each of the girls in our program. I’ve made a ten year commitment to each of these girls to help them graduate high school and college and become successful and independent young women.
How can people support your efforts?
People can support my efforts by sharing their human and financial resources with GEM. GEM depends on women in the Greater Baltimore community to donate their time as mentors or speakers and we always need funding for our programming. Our annual fundraiser, BeDazzle: a bright night for GEM will be held this year on Wednesday, April 24 at AVAM from 5:30-9 PM. It is a great “Ladies Night Out” for a great cause. More information on our event, or if you would like to volunteer, can be found on our website www.GEMmaryland.org.
If you had to share one final thought with our audience of thousands of women in business, what would it be?
Take time to give back. You always get much more than you give!