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Working mom values volunteering

  Mary Boone  

As general manager of community services for the American Red Cross of Greater Chicago, Deborah daBalos ’91 knows the value volunteers bring to not-for-profits. That's why—even with a full-time job, even as her husband is setting up his medical practice, even with a new baby—daBalos takes time to volunteer.

“I enjoy it, plus I think volunteering is really important,” she says. These days her free time is spent serving the AIDS Memorial Quilt, providing food and nutrition counseling for people with HIV and AIDS through Open Hand Chicago, and on the board of Rape Victim Advocates.

A Hawaii native, daBalos applied to colleges across the country and selected Cornell, sight-unseen.

“I flew to O'Hare and then to Cedar Rapids and took a cab to campus,” she recalls. “The driver asked where he should drop me, and I didn't know what to tell him. I'd never seen so much flat land and all I could think was, ‘What have I done? ”

DaBalos fears were soon alleviated.

“I was a great fit for the block plan. In fact, it's still how I work,” she says. She worked summers in Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Iowa. Her first post-graduation job was working with victims of sexual and domestic violence at the Cedar Rapids YWCA. She later moved to Denver to work for Planned Parenthood and then to Chicago to work for the National Runaway Switchboard.

At the Red Cross since 1999, daBalos oversees a staff of 22 who train and supervise volunteer instructors in programs ranging from water safety for children to HIV prevention.

She and her husband, ophthalmologist Greg Halperin, live in Chicago with their 5-month-old son, Griffin.

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