Managing director Emory & Co. Nonprofit served: Prevent Blindness Wisconsin Service: board member, 12 years
Sometimes serving involves taking care of the little things, filling in wherever the gaps may be. Sometimes it’s as simple as retrieving the mail when there’s no one else to do it.
F.R. Dengel III has served on the board of Prevent Blindness Wisconsin, a Milwaukee nonprofit that provides free vision screening services, for 12 years. During that time, the organization has undergone a few executive director changes, which has left some gaps in its day-to-day operations.[caption id="attachment_326847" align="alignnone" width="770"] Dengel[/caption]
Dengel, managing director at Milwaukee-based investment banking firm Emory & Co., is credited with filling them.
“Through our various leadership transitions, F.R. has always been the one to help us keep the work moving forward,” said Tami Radwill, executive director of Prevent Blindness Wisconsin. “He hired an accounting firm to pay our bills after our controller left, he came to the office and opened the mail for us when our CEO left; he helped me write grants during that time. He reads all of our contracts, our 990s, you name it, and always offers good changes and suggestions.”
Dengel’s involvement with Prevent Blindness Wisconsin was inspired by his parents. His father, F.R. Dengel II, served on the board in the 1970s, while his mother, Mary Dengel, worked as its office manager for 17 years around the same time.
Today, the organization has 12 staff members and relies on thousands of volunteers who conduct free vision screening programs in schools – an important service many schools couldn’t otherwise afford to offer, Dengel said.
Prevent Blindness serves children in every county in Wisconsin, but most live in Milwaukee. In the 2016-’17 school year, 219,745 children were screened and 22,431 were referred for complete eye examinations. Among them, 372 reported diagnoses of Amblyopia, which can lead to blindness in one eye if not treated early.
While Dengel’s involvement on the board often involves attending meetings and reviewing financial information, it was in reading the organization’s mail that he was reminded of its wider impact.
“When I was opening the mail, every so often you would get a letter from someone who says, ‘Thank you so much – my son or daughter was screened and the screeners found something and I never knew it’ … The stories that you get in the mail are really heartwarming, the grateful people you hear from.”
Dengel said he was touched to see an occasional donation of $5 or less come through the mail.
“They would say ‘Please use this to do good,’” Dengel said. “And I think one of the things I feel good about is that Prevent Blindness does do good with those donations from people who can only give $5. It’s well-spent to help people.”