Donor Relations and Marketing Manager Shellie Dell of Lake Area United Way has a smile like Christmas morning and a reputation for being positive, giving and energetic.
“I love working at United Way because they work with so many different organizations. I love people and connecting people with people. Networking is my favorite. It’s also a really interesting time to be there; United Way is evaluating how to best serve the community. We’re all like energizer bunnies. It’s electric!”
Part of what drives Shellie is that there is so much need in the community.
“United Way really opened my eyes. We have helped so many people! It’s the people that work two or three jobs to stay off the system and keep afloat. When a crisis happens we help people get back on their feet. Most people don’t want assistance, they want to be a good example to their kids and they want to be able to give back. We’re all really just one big crisis away from needing help. It’s there and it’s real. That’s what drives me the most is that I helping someone along the way.”
Her grandfather was the first to come to the United States from Serbia, and Shellie credits him with her work ethic.
“In my family, we all value working hard and getting it done, going above and beyond and doing the right thing – that mostly came from my grandfather. His family wasn’t even from here and he fought in World War II, became a firefighter and believed in the area and NWI and Gary to the extent that he would run into burning buildings.”
Shellie carried the torch of passion for the Region.
“I’m on the group that puts together the TEDx Talks – it’s a really neat group of people. Those are my favorite meetings of the month, we’re all so different and have different stories, but we all come together and work so well. I think all of us have the same passion for the Region, for all different reasons, but we all want to position the Region in a positive light. There is an identity crisis in Northwest Indiana and I think this group can help to make it cool to be from the Region. I don’t want my brother’s kids to move to Indianapolis and never move back. I want to make this the best place. I want everyone to think the Region is awesome. The neat thing about the TEDx group is that nobody funds the group, there’s no charter, no bylaws. Just an organic group of people who want to make a difference. It’s lightening in a bottle.”
“Even now I think, would my grandpa like this? He was so kind and wonderful and an awesome force. I have his Navy picture in my office and when I’m having a bad day I look at it. I have tons of pictures of my family – my mom and dad, and the pictures help me to prioritize what is right. They are my driving force. Family is always first. You don’t get another one.”
Shellie’s family recently suffered the sudden loss of her mother, (Colleen Zaberdac).
“Mom was taken from us quickly after a fall in which she hit her head. This is the darkest time of our family's history. I am so proud to think back about how we all came together to help, support and love each other. One of us started to cry, the other gave their shoulder, silence when it was needed, a soothing conversation about memories, but mostly support and love. Just like she taught us.”
“My mom was always there, she never played a sport in her life, but she helped coach softball, girl scouts, you name it. She is my rock. She was with my dad for 52 years - unheard of! My parents shared the rarest and most precious love and mutual adoration. In all seriousness, their love was like a Nicholas Sparks' novel, but only the sweet parts, not the sad ones. You would pull out a camera to take a picture of them and they'd lean in to kiss each other....even after being together for more than 50 years, they were still that much in love.”
Shellie and her husband have a Nicholas Sparks love story of their own. She met her husband, Steve, at Wrigley Field on opening day in 2002. He was sitting near her on the bleachers and swooped in to defend her from a man who was harassing her. They dated, had their first kiss at the Cubby Bear, and four years later got engaged at the same spot they had their first kiss.
They love planning parties and hosting family gatherings together, especially Christmas.
“Christmas is my favorite day of the year. I was born in December so I always felt like it was an extension of my birthday. My dad’s birthday was also in December, and I came home from the hospital on my Dad’s 30th birthday. The tree was there and I just have so many wonderful associations.”
“My Mom was the embodiment of Christmas. Beautiful tree, sparkly and shining ornaments, bright lights, family. Christmas was her favorite day. When I picture my Mom entering Heaven, I picture it being as beautiful as Christmas each and every day.”