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Dividend Spring 2013 : Page 44

T Danielle (Stewart) Olekszyk, BGS ’00/MAcc ’01, adds accounting savvy plus passion to equal success for the Skillman Foundation Olekszyk always has been interested in women’s and children’s issues. But at the onset of her career, she didn’t realize her need to have her work serve a greater good. She spent two years at PwC, followed by a financial consulting position at AlixPartners, based in Southfield, Mich. Olekszyk counts both as valuable learning experiences that laid the knowledge groundwork for her current career and helped her fine-tune her career plan. “I realized that I had a hard time seeing myself and my future career doing something that didn’t have a philanthropic mission,” she says. In 2004, a former PwC colleague alerted Olekszyk to the opening at the Skillman Foundation. She was content at AlixPartners, but says, “I learned at business school that you should look at an opportunity no matter what, even if you don’t think it’s the right one at first.” As it turns out, it was. Olekszyk was hired as the accounting manager, and was promoted to controller and assistant treasurer a year later. When the CFO left in 2008, she was tapped to replace him. The global financial crisis was going full throttle, which made it a challenging time to assume financial oversight of a $450 million endowment portfolio. But Olekszyk took the challenge in stride. “I never want to be in a position where I think I know everything,” she says. “It’s been a wild ride, but I truly love it.” And the suburban Detroit native relishes the ties she’s built to the city proper, which hit home during the foundation’s 50th anniversary celebration in 2010. Watching her children enjoy carnival rides alongside children served by the foundation reinforced the impact her organization has. “Detroit parents love their kids every bit as much as parents in the suburbs,” she says. “They might have different resources and a different perspective on the world, but they still want success, safety, love, and education for their children. I’m proud that the work I do can help them achieve that.” —Amy Spooner Numbers on a Mission hree-fifths of Detroit’s youth live in poverty. While numbers drive any accountant’s daily work, that statistic fuels an added sense of purpose for Danielle (Stewart) Olekszyk, BGS ’00/MAcc ’01 , the CFO and treasurer of the Detroit-based Skillman Foundation. “I came to the Skillman Foundation because I felt like I could do what I do best for an organization I care about. That makes me feel good and motivates me to work hard every single day,” Olekszyk says. The Skillman Foundation was launched in 1960 by philanthropist Rose Skillman ,and it addresses the needs of Detroit’s underserved youth primarily through school and neighborhood improvement. The foundation’s annual grants budget is about $17 million, which it invests in high-quality schools and nonprofits providing youth development and neighborhood stabilization in its six “Good Neighborhoods.” It also provides funding and support to what it calls “Good Opportunities” — organizations like Data Driven Detroit, which gathers accurate data about the city’s neighborhoods and kids. PHOTO BY PAUL ENGSTROM/SKILLMAN FOUNDATION Olekszyk is responsible for the oversight of the foundation’s financial and administrative systems, including accounting, legal, human resources, and facilities management. Working for a foundation means the organization’s mission is omnipresent. “All of us contribute to the mission, whether we’re approving grants, designing program strategy, answering phones, or doing the accounting,” she says. “We’re all here because we love the foundation, Detroit, and children.” As a member of Skillman’s executive team, Olekszyk frequently participates in neighborhood tours and meetings, school visits, and opportunities to see the foundation’s funds at work in the community. She says seeing a child on the street unsupervised or without a warm coat provides tangible proof of the importance of her work, as well as a teaching moment for her own small children. “It’s important that my kids understand there are significantly less-privileged children living not that far from them, so they realize the incredible privilege they have.” 44 DIVIDEND SPRING 2013

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