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Working together for the common good

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By Brenda Sperduti

Family, neighborhood, community. These aren’t just words – they’re the bedrock of a prosperous state and nation.

Strong families – where parents have jobs that enable them to provide their children with safe and secure homes, good educations and the blessings of faith and tradition. Where elders are respected and can enjoy the rewards of a life well lived.

Vibrant neighborhoods – where people know and care about the families next door; where streets are safe and secure; where home ownership is affordable and families can live and play without fear. 

Thriving communities – with good public schools, transit, parks and libraries – where people want to live and work, and where small businesses flourish and provide good-paying jobs.

We all share these values, no matter our origins, education or financial status.

I’ve spent my entire professional life working with organizations that promote these values. It began with 20 years in community relations for major corporations in the Valley. One of my key responsibilities was determining how the companies’ multi-million-dollar philanthropy budgets could do the most good and make a real difference in the communities we served. That brought me into close contact with nonprofit organizations in health care, human services, education and the arts, organizations that provided programs and services to communities throughout Arizona. 

I was able to establish long-standing and meaningful relationships with many wonderful individuals and groups serving the Latino community, including Friendly House, Chicanos por la Causa and Valle del Sol. I will forever remember working with some of the most inspired individuals in our state – people like Pete Garcia, Luz Sarmina Gutierrez, Congressman Ed Pastor, Consul General Ruben Beltran and State Senator Robert Meza. 

In 1993, American Express, my employer at the time, offered a program where employees could take time off to work for their community. I was selected for the program, and was given the opportunity to spend six months dedicated to community work at a nonprofit of my choice.

My goal was to select an organization where I could get close to the people who benefited from the group’s work, rather than spend all my time in an office. 

One of the first agencies I thought of was a small program in the Town of Guadalupe. When I arrived at Centro de Amistad, its dedicated CEO Santino Bernasconi greeted me. He was an amazing man, filled with a heartfelt commitment to improving the lives of his neighbors in this poor, urban town nestled between Tempe and Phoenix. 

His agency’s work was focused on healthcare outreach to people of the town who come from two cultural worlds, Yaqui Indian and Mexican American. I was impressed by the big impact this small agency made on the community and spent six rewarding months helping them convert a run-down property into a vacant lot and new plans to build an annex that is now used as a community center for their many worthwhile programs.

I am so grateful for that experience. The people of the town were gracious and warm, welcoming me with open arms. I felt like I was at home. And my life turned a corner. My work with Centro de Amistad led to my leaving the corporate world for the first time, to pursue meaningful experiences where I could work directly with nonprofit organizations and causes that had personal significance for me.

I put that experience to work at home as well. When my husband Tom and I moved into our neighborhood seven years ago, we immediately got active in our Neighborhood Association and Block Watch. We started by organizing our annual neighborhood parade and by creating and distributing a neighborhood newsletter. We’ve continued those activities, and we’ve personally gotten engaged with just about every issue that would have an impact on our neighborhood. For example, I’ve served on committees related to the Light Rail extension through our district and have gotten involved in traffic, community policing and zoning issues.

We’re fortunate to live in a neighborhood where our daughter Piper can attend Sunnyslope High School, a great public school with a dedicated faculty. I want all our children in all our districts to enjoy the same benefits of good public schools.

The work I’ve done, the experiences I’ve had and the people I’ve met in the last 37 years living in Phoenix have opened my eyes and my heart to the value of service and of working together for the common good. It’s why I’m running for the Phoenix City Council seat representing District 5. My promise is to join the city council as an independent voice and to fight for the values we all share: for strong families, vibrant neighborhoods and thriving communities. Together, we can make Phoenix one of America’s great cities.

Brenda Sperduti, president of Sperduti NetWorks LLC, moved to Phoenix with her family after graduating high school in 1974. She attended Maricopa Community Colleges, ASU and University of Phoenix. She is currently enrolled at Grand Canyon University completing a bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies. Professional highlights include managing community and government relations for Wells Fargo Bank, AT&T and American Express over a 20-year time span beginning in 1983. Following a successful corporate career, she shifted focus to grassroots issue management and civic engagement, worked at the Arizona Town Hall and then starting her own consulting business. She has professionally advocated and worked with a long list of nonprofit and for-profit clients in many fields, including arts and culture, health care and early childhood development. She is married to Tom Whalen and together they have three children, all residents of District 5.

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