Anna Karnas Danese, 39

Director of Workforce Partnerships, United Way of Greater Richmond and Petersburg

Danese has walked the walk by building houses in Memphis, working with Habitat for Humanity in Richmond and New Orleans and striving for eight and a half more years to build residences in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

But putting roofs over peoples’ heads doesn’t fix everything.

“What people don’t realize is that [before the hurricane] there was a lot of blight, and on the surface you can’t see the trauma that affects lives. The process of rebuilding lives takes grace, humility and hope,” she says.

Danese now works with some 30 participating Richmond regional organizations to create sustainable jobs for people who face difficulties, for a plethora of issues, such as lack of soft skills or social capital, undeveloped computer skills, poor education or unreliable transportation.

“COVID has pulled back and amplified the layers of inequality that were already there,” she says. “But I’m excited about our response to issues faced by the unemployed since we work regionally to build our partnerships.

“It may not always look like the classic 9-to-5 model,” she says with entrepreneurial spirit. “It’s not just about giving to others, it’s all that you learn along the way.” 

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