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Bennett is new executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters

November 16, 2009|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Phil Bennett hopes children can have role models like those he had.

Bennett, the new executive director of Washington County's Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter, said certain people significantly helped him personally and professionally, and he's grateful.

"I just feel that I need to return the favor," he said.

Bennett took over on Nov. 2 for Alecha Sanbower of Waynesboro, Pa.

Ralph Mauriello, the Washington County chapter's board president, said family reasons led Sanbower to leave in mid-October after about a year.

Bennett, an "in-your-face, enthusiastic, raring-to-go kind of guy," was a strong choice to replace her, Mauriello said.

"We found in him someone who can be the face of the organization," Mauriello said.

Bennett, 53, grew up in State Line, Pa., and after various journeys, lives there now.

He said he volunteered for Washington County's Boys & Girls Club in the mid-1970s as part of a class at Hagerstown Community College.

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The work became a job, then a career. He worked for Boys & Girls Clubs in Cincinnati and in Indiana, about 30 miles from Chicago.

In 1984, Bennett returned to Pennsylvania to help his parents. He had a photocopier sales job for 11 years.

Subsequently, he moved back and forth between Boys & Girls Clubs positions and business supply sales jobs.

Bennett said he started four Boys & Girls Clubs in Chambersburg and Shippensburg, Pa., in 2003 and 2004.

In 2006, he went back into business supplies.

Two years later, he became chief professional officer for Boys & Girls Clubs in Kilmarnock, Va., east of Richmond, where he stayed for about six months.

In May of this year, he took another business supply job -- until the Washington County Big Brothers Big Sisters job opened.

Boys & Girls Clubs have a variety of children's programs.

Big Brothers Big Sisters pairs adults mentors with children and teens.

Bennett said he wants Big Brothers Big Sisters to expand, especially outside Hagerstown, and collaborate more with other nonprofit agencies.

The local chapter works with about 75 children who are matched with mentors and has a waiting list of about 45 more.

Mauriello said the board liked the fact that Bennett wants to stick with the chapter until he retires.

"The passion never died," Bennett said of his return to nonprofit work. "It just burned as strong as it can be."

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