2020 Empowering Women in Philanthropy Winner Interview
Susan Fancsalli
Charity: Dress for Success Pittsburgh, Auberle Organization, and Meals for Wheels
(hoping to start my own nonprofit sometime in 2021)
Interviewed by Dr. Shellie Hipsky
How are you inspiring lives?

Over the last decade, I have made over 10,000 homemade cards and 5,000 homemade ornaments for the residents of local nursing homes. I have been in contact with several people from other states who have shown interest in doing the same thing for other nursing homes. It really made my heart happy that others were going to inspire yet other people to do the same.

The last year or so, I have gotten into making “words of encouragement” cards for Dress for Success Pittsburgh Allegheny Branch. I found out that they pass them out when the women come in for their fitting. I thought it was such a cute idea that I knew I wanted to be involved.

Making other people smile is a passion for me. I want to leave everyone better than I found them, whether it is with a kind word, a hug, or most importantly a smile.

What inspired you to do this work that you have chosen to do?

When I was in high school, I chose to get involved with a local senior citizens’ facility for my senior project. It gave me great insight, as the residents would continuously ask if they had received any mail. I would see their faces light up when they did receive mail and leave sullen when there wasn’t any mail. So I thought, “What could I do to change this.” That is when I decided to make cards. I knew at least on holidays and their birthdays they would have something in their mailbox. As I saw the joy when they received a card, I then included making an ornament.

Is there a story from your life that shows why this work is so important?

When I was in high school my senior project was to work with the elderly on their technological skills. My resident’s name was Nina; she was an unbelievable woman. She and I worked together every week on teaching her how to send emails to her grandkids and children who lived out of state. I realized spending all of that time with her, just how lonely she was. One day, she looked at me and said that I was officially her unofficial granddaughter. I knew in that moment that I wanted to do whatever I could to make her smile. That is where the homemade ornaments came into play, she loved them. I continue to do those in honor of her. However, unintentionally in trying to make her smile I was making everyone else smile as well. From that time on, I never wanted anyone to be without a smile.

What do you want to tell the women of the world about why it is important to give back to their communities?

It is easy to say “let someone else do it.” But for us, we are the “someone else” and that needs to be a testament to why it is important to give back. Everyone has been given a talent in some way that they are able to share back to the community. It is with this time and talent that we give back that increases the joy of those around us. It spreads seeds of interest for other people to do the same. We need to be the examples of what it is to the volunteers, care givers, and inspiring souls that make this world a better place.

What does it mean to you to be part of a Global Sisterhood?

What an incredible Global Sisterhood there is! These amazing women have given their time and talents to everyone around the world. How incredible to be included in such a group of amazing women. I am humbled by the fact that I have been chosen to be part of this Sisterhood. For me it is a recognition that my life has been led in the right direction. You only have one life…and to know that you are on the right path makes it all worthwhile.