United Way
of Massachusetts Bay
and Merrimack Valley

November 4, 2013

The View from the Scaffolding: A Community Builder’s Tale

When Wyndsor DePetro was looking for a summer job after high school, he was drawn to the construction field. There was something about tackling a project and seeing it to fruition that appealed to him.

He ended up working for a year, rehabbing broken-down homes in the poorer neighborhoods of downtown Cleveland. It was a jarring change of perspective for the Ohio native, who had grown up in Chagrin Falls, a sheltered suburb of Cleveland. One day, he recalls, while perched atop some scaffolding hammering away, he witnessed a man run from his house, chasing down someone and opening fire with a handgun.

“That was a part of life I was not familiar with,” he says. “But the overall experience was eye-opening and it allowed me to help people right in their neighborhoods. I learned that so many of them just needed a hand.”

Not long after, he would find himself in the Northeast, attending Babson College and then, later, working at Marcus Partners, where he is currently an Acquisitions Director. As he revved up his professional career, he intersected with United Way and kick-started his philanthropic career, becoming a founding member of the Community Builders group.

A collection of over 700 movers and shakers within the industry, Community Builders is a unique United Way affinity group, focused on skills-based volunteerism, hands-on volunteerism and philanthropy.

It is this focus on “doing something” that DePetro, a United Way Leader Donor, believes squares perfectly with the younger demographic Community Builders skews toward. He sees the Community Builders as active givers of their time and talent, getting their hands dirty within the community.

Past Community Builders projects have included hands-on projects like painting a preschool at the Vietnamese American Initiative for Development and planning a renovation for the Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester.

As DePetro prepares to transition out of his role as the point person for Community Builders, he is satisfied with the group that he’s been with since the genesis; the projects they’ve undertaken have had real impact in the community and the network has grown. He intersected with Community Builders at the dawn of his professional career. Along the way, he’s connected many others to the work of United Way and the joy of strengthening the community, either by the scrawls on their bank checks or the sweat on their brow.

“The people I’ve met through United Way have a philanthropic heart,” DePetro says. “They want to give back to the community in some way.”

The perspective gained atop that scaffolding in Cleveland, banging away on nails,  so many years ago, has been leveraged into a real and measurable impact in greater Boston. Wyndsor DePetro may be moving on to the next phase of his life, but he is confident in the foundation that he helped lay and the heart of his successors.

The community still needs building. Who else will hold the hammer?