Volunteer Spotlight: Phil Lekanides

Phil Lekanides has been a member of Young Leaders United for over four years. During his tenure with United Way he has contributed countless hours to several initiatives. He has refurbished homes with Rebuilding Together Dutchess County, beautified the City of Poughkeepsie with the Middle Main initiative, served as a community outreach volunteer, and collected food donations. He has also coordinated fundraisers that benefit United Way, gathered gift cards for local families around the Holidays and lastly built houses with Habitat for Humanity.

What matters to Phil the most is his volunteer work around housing access. As the Assistant Vice President of Residential Mortgage Lending at Rhinebeck Bank he spends his days helping clients buy homes. “Home ownership is so important for families to have a safe place to call their own. It helps them with stability and allows them to be greater involved in their local communities; through my work with United Way, Rebuilding Together and Habitat for Humanity, I am able to make this dream a reality.”

Rhinebeck Bank partners regularly with Habitat for Humanity and most recently has provided support to get Habitat for Humanity of Dutchess County’s new Home Ownership Management Education (HOME) Program launched. The HOME Program is an educational series designed and run by Cornell Cooperative that assists new homeowners from Habitat for Humanity in preparing themselves and their families for the financial aspects of owning a home. The program is designed to teach budgeting and the importance of saving for emergencies and situations that may arise as a homeowner, and to shift out of the mindset of being a renter. Rhinebeck bank is supportive of their employees’ community endeavors and hasencouraged Phil to continue his great work. “I am grateful to work at a company that embraces community philanthropy.”

Most recently Phil participated in a Make a Difference Day project with Habitat for Humanity of Dutchess County. He and his fellow Young Leaders performed an exhaustive clean up of a City of Poughkeepsie vacant home. They raked the backyard, carted away debris and picked up trash. Habitat will completely re-vamp this house to make it livable in the next year or two. “I am thrilled that we took the first step to making this house a home for a local family.”

Phil is a Hudson Valley native and has made the area his permanent home. His parents were also locally involved and he has followed in their footsteps. His mother has been a Board Member for the ARC for many years and his father coached and volunteered in local athletic leagues. “They always taught me that charity begins at home and I knew I could make a difference too.”

One of his favorite volunteer experiences was on a Rebuilding Together Dutchess County project. He was part of a group doing a clean-up of a disabled woman’s mobile home. Unfortunately her home was not wheel chair accessible and she could only leave the house once a week when respite services picked herup. In addition to the clean-up, Phil and the team were able to install a wheelchair ramp. The home owner was elated. She thanked the team for giving her freedom and independence back and told them, “I can now go outside and get fresh air whenever I want!”

Phil is appreciative of his United Way involvement. “By volunteering with United Way and their partners, I am able to make a visible, tangible difference right where we live.” To learn more about the Young Leaders United program visit www.uwdor.org/YLU.

To learn what volunteer opportunities await you visit volunteer.uwdor.org.

―Melissa Clark, Manager of Community Mobilization