By Carissa Woytach, United Way of Greater Cleveland Staff Writer
Editor’s Note: While we focus on our work in the community and rarely shine a spotlight on ourselves, this series is designed to put faces and names to the great and challenging work United Way does every day.
Lifelong banker Cheryl Parzych has been director of United Way of Medina County for less than a year.
From arts and preservation boards to working on a foundation to serve women, girls and people with disabilities, she continually kept one foot in philanthropy as her professional career progressed.
A lot to learn
Through her volunteer work, Parzych said she learned of the issues communities face, and is now able to make informed decisions because of that experience.
“As an individual who is involved, it changes your perspective,” she said. “There’s a lot to learn, and you grow as a person. The more you do, the more valuable you are to your community because you become more informed and can contribute with an experienced perspective.”
She said she has learned the state of Medina County and the people she serves, including what services it needs. For Medina, early childhood and youth services are a large part of United Way’s Community Impact strategy.
In her leadership position, she said she has learned the importance of having of organized staff when trying to reach a goal, and the need to bring resources together to make the greatest impact in the community.
“I learned the importance of shooting for a target … What’s reasonable, how do we approach it and how do we address things in an organized way?” she said. “Who are the other people in the community that are interested in a particular issue and how can you collaborate rather than having to invent everything that’s already happening?”
Passion for connections
As a senior vice president and chief fiduciary officer of Key Bank for seven years, Parzych just recently made a professional shift to the nonprofit world.
Working in wealth management, her job included building relationships and making families successful in achieving their future goals. Her position at United Way of Medina is similar, but now she is working to help a whole community succeed.
“It was just a point in my career when I could make a transition,” she said. “And I began to think about it seriously and network in the nonprofit community to see where my skills could transfer. United Way seemed to be a good place to do that — very broad reach across the community, a wide array of interests.”
Making a home
Describing herself as a “homebody,” Parzych said she and her husband, Brian, enjoy spending time working on their home in Medina.
Growing up in a Victorian-style house in New York, she credits it with her passion for Redecorating and “revamping” her current home.
Outside her home and work, Parzych enjoys traveling. She and her husband hold dual citizenship with Ireland, where they visit regularly.
Drew Hall, director of Resource Development at United Way of Medina County, has worked with Parzych since she started there. He credits her with reaching outside of Medina County, into Wadsworth and Brunswick.
“She’s a very perceptive person,” he said. “She understands the relationships that we need to be nurturing, to move our work forward and she’s not hesitant to reach out to folks here … and have conversations with people that we’ve struggled traditionally to get in front of.”
Ryan Carlson, United Way of Medina County Board of Trustees chairman, said Parzych was hired for her years of leadership in the public and private sectors.
“Cheryl has an emotional intelligence about her that few individuals have,” he said. “She’s very organized, she understands that sometimes things need to be a process, she understands when things need to be set up and it’s been a really good working relationship.
“I have always respected Cheryl’s ability to have her pulse on a number of things at the same time, yet somehow know what we need to do first in order to start moving things in the right direction.”
Having moved to the Community Impact agenda before Parzych started at United Way of Medina County, Carlson said the board looks to her to continue focusing resources to move the organization to the forefront of Medina’s service sector.
“We want her to position United Way as Medina County’s premier resource to solve problems and have impactful change,” he said. “And she gets that, we have tasked her with trying to best understand what the county truly needs from us.”
Parzych said United Way of Medina County’s Community Impact agendas for income, health and education are making a change in the community.
“I believe that one person definitely can make a difference,” she said. “The more you do, the more valuable you are to your community, as you become more informed.”