Athena finalist: Barbara Brohl
Barbara Brohl wants to wrap her arms around the whole community. Open, friendly, full of humor, the corporate counsel for CenturyLink (formerly Qwest) and Athena Award finalist believes giving back means helping others move forward.
“I grew up in this company, starting as an operator for Mountain Bell right out of high school,” the Denver native said. Working her way up through software development and leading IT projects, the young Brohl was inspired to return to school for a law degree.
She forged her passion for helping others while going to school and working full time. “I didn’t get where I’ve gotten by myself,” she said. “I had help and support from this company, family and friends. Because of their belief and support of me, I feel I have a huge responsibility to help others.”
So she makes room in her life to reach out, offering her talents and skill through the company’s program of pro bono work with disadvantaged persons. With a demanding career, the mother of three and grandmother of five must use her time wisely, often bringing family with her to events. “I’m married to a person (Rick) who is absolutely the best support. When something comes up, he always asks, ‘How can I help?'”
Before joining the board for the Gathering Place, a day shelter for homeless women and children, Brohl wondered whether she’d be able to find the time. “But once I had the tour, I knew I’d find it,” she said. Beyond showers, meals and a safe playground for kids, “If women want to move forward, they can get their GED there. What the Gathering Place does is not just focus on today’s need; they also help their clients build a tomorrow, which is what I like to do.”
Building that tomorrow includes bringing her understanding of community to the Hispanic Advisory Council of Florence Crittenton High School. The alternative school serves pregnant and parenting teens, keeping them on track to become a success, instead of a statistic.
“The Hispanic community is very faith-based; its culture is to put our arms around everyone in our community to help people. It has a huge support system; everyone treats one another as if they’re related. What I tell them is that if you speak to the heart of the Hispanic community, you’ll get more help than you can imagine.”
Brohl is serving her second four-year term on the Regional Transportation District board, for which she chairs the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise committee. She and board Co-Chairwoman Angie Malpiede spearhead the Workforce Initiative, a program aimed at reducing joblessness that has garnered support from community partners and federal agencies.
“This program takes a backward look, rather than a forward one,” she said. “Rather than training people and hoping jobs materialize, we write into every contract that the contractors dedicate a certain number of jobs to the participants in this program.”
RTD, along with partners such as Mi Casa, Urban League and Goodwill, identify underemployed or unemployed community members who want a hand up. Working with the Community College of Denver, organizers provide training to improve skills that lead to jobs with contractors.
“It’s a full-stop shop – in addition to classes, we offer child care and help with transit to classes so they can get from not having a job to getting a job. It allows women to work in nontraditional roles, and we’re hoping to see a lot of veterans in the program, too.”