Unity House’s committed Board of Directors are not just the ultimate volunteers, they are a deep bench of expertise.
Michael DiAcetis loves spending time with his family, eating barbecue, watching basketball, and daily walk with his pups. He works at National Grid, where he seems to wear many hats, all about people and connections. We recently sat down with Mike to talk about advocacy and making a difference.
Q: How did you first learn about Unity House?
A: My first job was with a Department of Social Services, where I met my wife and heard about the great work being done at Unity House. Fast forward thirty years, I had the pleasure of meeting Unity House CEO Chris Burke, when we both served on the board of the local chamber of commerce. I became reacquainted with Unity House and its mission through getting to know Chris. I respected that Chris was the lone dissenter on a board vote that did not align with Unity House. His passion and advocacy came through during that vote; and it was something I have never forgotten. Chris piqued my interest to learn more about the organization.
Q: What makes for an effective advocate?
A: Most of my career at National Grid has included problem-solving and advocating for customers of all backgrounds; both residential and commercial/industrial. I’ve also spent time communicating key issues to local government, organizations, and community groups. To advocate effectively often starts with active listening. It takes patience to work through difficult topics and issues. I am fortunate that my company has always had a strong sense of community, supporting and encouraging advocacy in worthy causes.
Q: What does your volunteer work look like? (If too wordy, we can delete this one.)
I have volunteered on the boards of civic organizations and with youth around STEM. However, my wife’s work was in social services and there was always a lot of ‘shop talk’ at the dinner table. That, along with my first job in social services, prompted me to also consider volunteering for an organization that provides direct, human services. I have served on the Unity House Board of Directors for 5 years, serving as Chair of the Advocacy Committee for the last three.
Q: Why is advocacy at the board level important?
The late Kathryn Allen was our Board Chair when I first got involved with Unity House. She was passionate about an Advocacy Committee to identify, discuss and act upon issues that are important to the organization and impact the people it serves. While board governance is an important responsibility, advocacy and community outreach are an inherent part of what we should be doing. Through our presence in the community, we have the opportunity to articulate public issues that affect our organization; acting as ambassadors of its mission and champions of the people we serve. Participation in the Advocacy Committee has allowed me to hear from Unity House service directors to gain a better understanding of the challenges and obstacles faced by our staff and by people in need.
Q: What has the advocacy committee been working on and why?
Funding and Public Policy are recurring themes at the federal, state and local level. Recently we advocated for Cost-of-Living increases for Human Services workers, Mental Health Housing support and improved Child Care/Special Education reimbursement. The opportunity to help shape the outcome of public policy issues has a direct impact on the people we serve and the amazing staff who do the hard work.
Many thanks to Mike for taking the time to share about his work. We are grateful for all he does. If you’d like to learn more about volunteering or how you can advocate for the needs in your community, please get involved.