Given how passionate Debbie Dennis is about working with AFB, it’s no surprise she was elected as Chair of the Board of Trustees in November.
She sees a great future for AFB, particularly under its current leadership and Board, which includes some new faces alongside those who have been serving with Dennis for a number of years.
“We have a tremendous opportunity to further engage our Board of Trustees, not only in fundraising but in contributing their talent and time in other ways,” she says. “As Chair, I see my role as creating an atmosphere at the Board level that helps Kirk and his great team succeed.”
"Debbie brings a wealth of experience that I know will advance our mission of creating a world of no limits for people who are blind or visually impaired,” said Kirk Adams, AFB President and CEO. “She has a driving commitment to create a more level, inclusive playing field in the workplace, the classroom, and communities around the nation.”
Oncor’s Chief Customer Officer and Senior Vice President of Human Resources & Corporate Affairs, Dennis first got involved with AFB in her hometown of Dallas. Her boss asked her to serve on one of the local advisory boards AFB had across the country at the time. During her tenure on the board, she was involved in creating AFB’s Center on Vision Loss in Dallas. In 2006, she was elected as Chair of the Dallas Board and was appointed to AFB’s national Board of Trustees.
Dennis has served on the national Board ever since, most recently as Vice Chair. She also served as Chair of the strategy advisory committee when AFB developed its new vision and mission and was on the selection committee that chose Kirk Adams as AFB’s President and CEO.
“I’ve had the opportunity to learn so much about AFB as a Trustee and it’s been a fascinating journey,” Dennis says. “Especially now, as we look to the future where we’re focused on systemic change.”
Her professional experience brings valuable expertise to AFB’s Board. At Oncor, Dennis’ role includes responsibility for customer service, community relations, talent management and much more. She’s also responsible for the strategic direction of Oncor’s philanthropy, community involvement and employee engagement initiatives. In addition to serving on AFB’s Board, Dennis is the Loaned Executive Director for the Dallas Mayor’s Youth Fitness Initiative and serves on the Board of the Dallas Regional Chamber and the Baylor Scott and White Health and Wellness Institute, among others.
“I have a lot of plates spinning, and the easier thing to do would be to say no to this opportunity to serve as Chair of AFB’s Board,” Dennis says. “But I believe that anything important is worth doing, and when we think it’s hard to give is when we should be giving.”
There’s plenty of work ahead, given AFB’s return to its roots with its renewed focus on systems change. And like her fellow trustees, Dennis believes in the importance of AFB’s strategic vision.
“The biggest challenge is helping people understand what we do,” she admits. “We need to help people recognize how sustainable systemic change is going to create a different future for people with vision loss — that’s what AFB is all about.”
Particularly in the area of employment, Dennis is eager to make good use of AFB’s policy and research capabilities. The latter in particular, provides the data to make the business case for hiring more people who are visually impaired. Partnerships with agencies like AbilityOne and corporate partners are another avenue Dennis recognizes as a valuable way to demonstrate the importance of inclusion — and to secure more meaningful, better-paying jobs for people with vision loss.
“Looking to the future, there’s so much opportunity there, but it isn’t going to be an easy journey,” Dennis says. “It’s going to take a lot of people pulling together and developing partnerships that haven’t even been imagined yet. I’m very excited about what all of us can do together.”