Elizabeth “Betty” Eberhardt started working as a secretary at United Way of Long Island in 1975, took on many other roles over the decades, and became one of the most valued, respected and loved colleagues.
Now, as United Way of Long Island celebrates its 55th anniversary, it’s also saying goodbye to its most tenured staffer, Eberhardt, now assistant vice president, who is retiring next summer after 45 years with the local nonprofit, an affiliate of the global network.
“Many people leave their organizations because they want to change the job they’re doing,” says Eberhardt, whose career has included roles in the media relations, fundraising, and allocations departments. “I’ve been blessed to be able to do that within one organization.”
It is with near certainty that Eberhardt is one of the longest-serving United Way employees in the nation.
“Betty’s commitment to our mission is unparalleled,” says United Way of Long Island President and CEO Theresa A. Regnante. “Her passion is evident in her work and in the partnerships she has helped establish over the decades.”
Over the years, Eberhardt has seen the need for financial assistance fluctuate as recessions come and go, and witnessed the agency’s growth. This includes forming initiatives in response to the emergence of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s and building healthy, efficient and sustainable housing of late.
Chief among her accomplishments was starting the precursor to the 2-1-1 helpline that connects those in need with the nonprofit’s many assistance programs. When the service started, it was just Eberhardt answering the phone. 2-1-1 Long Island has since grown into a 24/7 operation with a call center and online database that collectively get hundreds of thousands of requests for help annually.
“Betty made a major impact on all of the people she touched,” says Ronnie Renken, a United Way of Long Island board member who started volunteering for the organization in 1976. “Her main concern has always been the people of Long Island and the impact that United Way has made on their lives.”
John Renyhart, senior vice president of marketing for the nonprofit in the ’80s and ’90s, recalls that Eberhardt also helped start the heating assistance program Project Warmth, which is now entering its 26th season.
“She is very good at connecting United Way with larger projects,” he says. “The organization is fortunate to have had her expertise for nearly five decades and the dedication that she brings to the job.”
As Eberhardt reflects on her storied career and prepares for retirement, she’s just happy to have had a chance to help.
“The most rewarding task is being a small part of helping families in need,” she says. “That is very personally rewarding.”