Heather Denny, chief operating officer at Wells Global, former CEO at McDonald York Building Co. and member of the John Rex Endowment board, once thought she wanted to be a music teacher. Then the combination of being “good at math” and visiting a work site with her dad, who was in construction, convinced her that engineering was her chosen field. “I felt called to engineering, even knowing it was a predominately male field. It was simply what I wanted to do, and I pursued it.”

Denny has a similar commitment to, and intensity about, volunteering with nonprofits. “I don’t have children,” she explains, “and so I call nonprofits my children.”

Upon graduating from N.C. State with a B.S. in Civil Engineering, Denny returned to her love of music and volunteered to develop music education programs for a church she attended. When a good friend volunteered for the American Heart Association’s ball, Denny tagged along with her friend – and came out of the meeting with a new volunteer position as logistics chair for the ball. “I loved that experience and stayed with the American Heart Association for a long time as a volunteer,” she said. “Then I did the same for the Triangle Chapter of the American Red Cross, where I was introduced to people who needed our help to survive disasters. That was meaningful volunteering.”

Other meaningful volunteer leadership positions included those at Wake Tech’s “Fostering Bright Futures,” at Triangle Family Services and now, with the John Rex Endowment, where she is helping shape the definition of “champions for children.”

Denny says, “Being a champion for children goes beyond words, it means you identify the needs of all children, understanding that these are not the same for all children.  Different communities have different needs.  Before we can champion a cause you must understand what the needs are, what will impact that community and population, how do you communicate that need to those that can help fill the need then how to you intentionally work with those that have the need."

She adds, “Champions do not stop there.  They stay engaged to ensure that what was started continues, evaluating the plan to make sure the need is being met, adjusting as needed.  A champion asks what’s next and continues to identify the changing needs of children in our various communities.”

Denny concludes with her prediction for what the Endowment will be doing in the next five years. “I believe we’ll continue to support those organizations that are serving the various communities in Wake County by providing resources to assist with capacity building, advocacy and laying a foundation for children to have limitless opportunities -- no matter where their specific situation has placed them.” [11/2019]