This year the theme for International Women’s Day 2021 is #ChooseToChallenge. It is a call to action to challenge what is possible, to challenge the status quo and to push for change. Change is rarely easy and comfortable, but we can all be responsible for encouraging change by confronting bias and inequality. This year we are highlighting those inspiring women leaders who embody that Choose To Challenge mantra to bring real, beneficial change to our Tucson community.
Diana Charbonneau is one of those community leaders. Diana is the Development Coordinator at IMPACT of Southern Arizona and created the Annual Women of IMPACT Luncheon fundraiser. This year it is an all-virtual event taking place on Friday, April 2nd.
Experienced in relationship building, planning, and teamwork, she has worked in the HR, manufacturing, financial and non-profit fields. Among Diana’s many accomplishments, she is an Arizona Daily Star 40 Under 40 award recipient and a Woman of Influence Award Honoree for Community Service Champion. She previously served as Co-Program Director for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy. Currently, Diana chairs the Communications Committee for the Emerging Leaders Council of the Tucson Metro Chamber of Commerce and serves on the Board of Directors for Junior Achievement of Southern Arizona. Diana believes in encouraging community members to get involved and have their voice heard.
Diana’s work at IMPACT of Southern Arizona is incredibly inspiring. If you are not familiar with IMPACT, it is a place people can go for assistance that is most well-known for their Food Bank, but they also have a full Clothing Bank along with Youth & Senior Services. They are working to empower Southern Arizonans with the resources required to pursue a stabilized and enhanced quality of life. They reinvest over $2.5 million back into the community each year, and the Food Bank service area spans over two counties. Diana is grateful that she gets to work with them as their Development Coordinator. She loves connecting with donors, community partners and collaborating with other local organizations.
IMPACT has had its own set of challenges over the last year. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted how they were able to continue services and the amount and types of clients they serve. They had to shut down their commercial kitchen from the very beginning and turned their Food Bank into a drive-thru service. This could have had been devastating to their work – however, they were able to partner with Stay Naked Kitchen for frozen meals to continue food delivery to seniors. They also saw a large increase in people signing up for services – almost 2 new families a day. While the worried faces coming to their doors increased, they stepped up to the challenge and have been able to continue to provide resources and referrals to get our community through this difficult time.
Diana is a native Tucsonan but says she never knew what community service was until she went to college in Washington D.C at George Washington University. There she had the opportunity to lobby on Capitol Hill and teach children how to read in low-income schools. When she came back home, she says it was clear that she needed to be doing more in our community and immediately got involved.
“I have been able to work alongside some of the best and brightest in Tucson, collaborate on local projects with leaders and mentors who helped shape my career path and get to know the impressive organizations we have working to support our community. My favorite part of it all is knowing that I have played a part in something much larger than myself to make the world a better place for my baby girl.”
In 2016, Tucson was named one of the most giving cities in the United States. Tucson has an abundance of non-profits per capita – with good reason. The Tucson community has a great need for those resources. It was important to her that a fundraising event like the Annual Women of IMPACT Luncheon fundraiser found a way to give back to those in our community doing incredible things. Women of IMPACT was created to recognize those women making an ‘impact’ in our community every day. It has grown bigger year after year, allowing them to make a collective impact for many and raising awareness of what IMPACT does.
Diana’s work highlighting Women of IMPACT has done great things to promote gender diversity, and she hopes that we can continue to increase the diversity of leadership in our local community.
“We have witnessed for decades how the general good of the community is outweighed by political and/or personal agendas. As a mother, I now understand the extreme importance of thinking forward to a future that is 10, 50, and 100 years forward and we must do so through representation of ALL people.”
Diana says in addition to pushing for gender equity for women, she is looking forward to taking over as President of the Tucson branch of AAUW (American Association of University Women) – working for gender equality. She says, “To make changes, we must take action and forge a path forward to create the future of tomorrow we want to see for our children.”
Diana is a first-generation college graduate raised by a single mom that knew nothing of our community or the world. She hopes to set an example and challenge everyone to remember that you can do anything you set your mind to and make a difference more ways than you can ever imagine. We have the technology, communication, and resources to make an impact in many ways on a macro or micro level.
While she was Co-Program Manager for the Young Entrepreneurs Academy, she witnessed teens from diverse backgrounds create social movements and their own businesses. She has been impressed many times over by what the youth of today can do. Her advice to anyone wanting to make a difference is, “Find a mentor – get involved with organizations like Tucson Young Professionals – invest in your personal and professional development – and don’t let anyone ever tell you ‘that’s the way it’s always been done’. We are Tucson’s future, and we are blazing a path toward the next era of innovation.”
Thank you, Diana, for inspiring all of us to #ChooseToChallenge ourselves and our community to be better!