Board Member Spotlight: Peter Birkey, Board Ex-officio

Before moving to Grand Rapids, Peter lived in Boston, serving as an Executive Vice President of Liberty Mutual Group Asset Management Inc. and was responsible for all Strategy, Public Markets, Risk Management, Real Estate and Special Situations. Peter is also currently on the Vancouver-based Pretium (NYSE ticker – PVG) Board of Directors, Coe College Board of Trustees, and the ICC Foundation Board. Some of Peter’s favorite activities include travelling with his 15 and twin 11 year old daughters, and spending time outdoors.

What inspired you to be involved with United Way?
The thing that most inspired me to be involved with United Way was seeing the various needs represented in the Itasca community. Despite the rich opportunities in our community, we have many families living below the poverty line. Nearly 50% of our families meet the free and reduced lunch requirements. Coming from Boston, I was surprised to see those differences between the city culture and the needs of the rural communities of Itasca County. Despite a challenging economic condition, I am continually impressed by how strong members of Itasca County are in their determination to make a living. I know that United Way taps into the community’s strengths, creating a network of investors and partners who are dedicated to supporting the community and making lasting change.

What is the most rewarding thing you have taken from this experience?
Meeting the people impacted by United Way has been very rewarding. Like Chelsi Drobnick, many people have a direct story with United Way, and how they have been touched by its efforts. Those stories give meaning to the work of United Way and make the impact real and tangible.

What is one word you would use to sum up United Way’s work?

What impresses you most about Itasca?
I am impressed by the vibrant culture represented in the community. To have facilities like the Reif Performing Arts Center and the Grand Rapids Area Library is impressive and reflects a dedication to arts and culture. The beauty of the outdoors is also very impressive. The lakes, the Mississippi River, the wildlife – it’s a beautiful place to live.

What is one thing about United Way that you think most people don’t know?
1 out of 3 people in Itasca County are impacted by United Way efforts – and it all stays local! I think a common misconception is that money donated to United Way goes to big cities like New York or Chicago, but it stays right here in Itasca County and directly impacts our communities.

What advice would you give to a potential donor who is considering investing in United Way?
I can think of no better way to make an impact to the Itasca area than a donation to the United Way of 1000 Lakes.