Acton-Boxborough United Way Gets Largest Donation to Date

January 9, 2020 — The Acton-Boxborough United Way, an Acton-based nonprofit founded in 1981 that provides a range of services to serve ongoing and emergency needs, recently announced it received its largest donation to date, $100,000 from the Steinberg-Lalli Charitable Foundation.

Stephen Steinberg, trustee of the Acton-based foundation, said he decided to make the gift after meeting Griet Dehandschutter, who joined the Acton-Boxborough United Way (ABUW) last August, whom he described as "a dynamic and entrepreneurial person with a big and bold vision," according to a report in the Acton Patch. "When I learned that she and her two other staff were only part-time employees, I was dismayed.

"There seemed to be so much potential for support out there, but not enough hours to connect with those people. This is a generous community. How could I help address the need to engage the people and organizations who are ready to give support?"

The foundation has supported ABUW for many years, usually in the form of sponsorship. Steinberg said he hoped the foundation's new support will inspire others to give to the organization, which reportedly already has occurred.

Dehandschutter joined ABUW with more than 20 years of management, strategic fundraising, and communication experience, working locally and internationally. She is founder of Dehandschutter & Associates, a strategic fundraising consultancy based in Acton.

She was co-founder and managing director of the European-American Business Council, communications consultant for Burson-Marsteller, representative of the Belgian government to attract American companies to locate in Belgium, and for the past 14 years as a strategic fundraising consultant to large and small nonprofits around the world. She grew up in Belgium.

She earned a law degree from the University of Antwerp and a master's degree in international relations from the The Johns Hopkins University ”“ Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies.

Since joining as executive director, Dehandschutter has become more aware of acute community needs.

Quoted in Wicked Local Acton, she said that in 2009, 2.5% of students in the Acton-Boxborough School District qualified for free or reduced lunch. In 2019 that number jumped to 11%.

In addition, one-third of the population of Boxborough are immigrants, and local school students speak approximately 40 different languages.