Spotlight COlorado  

Have You Met?

Have you ever met someone whom you immediately liked and wanted to get to know more about? That was my first reaction to meeting Rebecca Saltman about a year ago. Rebecca definitely represents the new generation of doers, movers, and shakers who want to do things brighter, and better, and fresher than ever before!

Rebecca has been working in public relations, fundraising and grass roots coalition building for 15 years. Her talents have led her to law and public policy lobbying on behalf of various healthcare and telecommunications agencies.

Enthusiasm just flows out of Rebecca when you talk with her about the various nonprofits she is involved with – especially with her key charity, the Huntington Society of America. Rebecca is the President of the Rocky Mountain Chapter.

Rebecca is one of the more charismatic personalities we have in Denver today, and her “Circle of Friends” keeps growing and growing. Meet her, and you will understand why. She is refreshing, authentic and optimistic about everything going on around her. Rebecca will hardly even allow you to entertain a negative thought. In her eyes, we can fix anything that is broken.

We are lucky Rebecca Saltman chose Colorado as her new hometown; you’re sure to be hearing about Rebecca in the days and years to come. This young lady was destined to make “good things” happen - wherever she happens to be.

What “lured” you to Colorado? I was living in New York City having visited here once before. I went to my former business partner’s wedding on the western slope over Labor Day weekend of 1998. I went hiking, biking, rafting. The weather was amazing and the people were more incredible. I made the decision to move here that weekend much to the surprise of all of my friends and family in the northeast. Most of them didn’t believe me when I said I was moving to Denver, until of course less then six months later I was moving!

For the most part, can you now profile the people who live in Colorado – How can you compare us to people in other cities or states? People here are the most educated, healthy and fit (although personally I always hope to achieve a better sense of fitness), making people nicer and happier here than anywhere else I have lived (Boston, NYC, Los Angeles and London).

Is Denver the place you hope to live in for a long, long time? It was both the scariest and best decision I ever made, and I plan to be here for a long time!

If you were a contender for Miss America, what would your platform be? (UNLIKELY BUT) To be a “change maker”; to me that means BIG paradigm shifts. The first of three shifts I can best define is working on changing the way in which health care operates, creating a worldwide “telewellness program.” This program ensures wellness at the grass root level of communities; so traditionally delivered healthcare and insurance appear in a new way.

I want to change the definition of the word competition because coordination, collaboration, and coalition are really what get things done.

Lastly, I want to stop nonprofit organizations from carrying around tin cups and begging for money. I want to teach them to be in the business of their business by being social entrepreneurs and creating strategic partnerships.

How did you become involved with the Huntington Disease Society of America? I moved to Colorado without a job or a place to live. Four days before I moved here, I interviewed with the National Executive Director and senior management of HDSA in New York. Three weeks later, I was the first National Field Director for the organization in Colorado. A week after I started the job, I was thrown in “head first” working with an extraordinary doctor named Lauren Seeberger, a nationally renowned neurologist that specializes in movement disorders. She made me her assistant for a day and introduced me to families and people affected by this hideous disease. She explained that the disease was the worst she deals with because of not only its mental and physical impact, which is all encompassing, but also its genetic component. It effects families generation after generation, robbing the family of its livelihood, assets and socialization generation after generation.

For a relatively young person, you have accomplished much; what is your relationship with your own success so far? This is a never-ending challenge and I hope to never stop working on future successes that will help all of the causes I work with. I am not called a “causeaholic” for nothing!

What do you consider your proudest achievement? I have several proud moments:

First would be my work with Steven Spielberg’s Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation and how that led to my small part in the opening of the Museum of Jewish Heritage, a living memorial to the Holocaust in New York City.

I lived in Los Angeles for two years while getting my masters degree at UCLA; I worked on the TV show China Beach and after moving to New York, my boss recruited me to open the New York office for the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation. First I opened the New York office and in 1996 opened a Boston office. Between the two offices, we interviewed approximately 15,000 Holocaust Survivors in more than 20 languages including sign language.

After I completed my work in the Boston office, I moved back to New York to work at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, the New York Holocaust Museum. I worked in several positions including the Director of Special Events, but one of my proudest moments was the opening day on the southern tip of Manhattan (south of the World Trade Center) ironically in hindsight on September 11th 1997.

What’s the wildest thing you’ve ever done? My Mother would say the wildest thing I have ever done was at age 15, flying with a Time Magazine photographer to Cape Cod in his Piper Cub for dinner. (He even let me fly!) My mother has grounded me ever since!

How did you first get involved in charitable giving/philanthropy? I grew up in the theatre. My sister was the “Kosher Ham” of the family, and my mother got her into acting classes at Boston Children’s Theater as an outlet when she was seven-years-old. My mother thought it would be a good idea to get her shy older daughter (yes that was me at ten- years-old) involved as well. I learned from that very young age that you need to work together with people to get things done, and you better be nice to the guy in charge of props, because if you aren’t, somebody will be spitting in your on stage glass of water. Even as a young child I realized that in order to have these amazing opportunities like theatre, it needed to be supported.

Also, my father who was an entrepreneur, taught me that you must get connected to individuals and support them. For example, you should patronize one pharmacy because those people will also be connected to you. So if you get sick in the middle of the night, you can call on that pharmacist, and he or she will help you. He explained that people give and help people not causes.

What is "A Foot in the Door Productions?" It is a coalition-building firm that brings together various groups so they can be stronger and more impactful than they could individually. Many businesses, government agencies and nonprofit organizations share a mission, vision, and values, but aren’t aware of each other and certainly haven’t worked together.

The firm helps these organizations understand each other and how cooperation helps all parties achieve their goals to make a better community. In other words, building these coalitions creates a better understanding that cooperation is better than competition. When they work together to accomplish their goals, these coalitions provide easier access to new markets, gain local community support, and enhance business credibility with public and private constituents, thereby making significant impact. Essentially, the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Tell us about the time you spent working for the Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation? I was hired to work at the foundation by a former boss of mine from Los Angeles. I was working on my dream to be a theatre owner/producer when she suggested I open the New York office of the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation. The first time around, I said that I would be very happy to volunteer in any way that they needed me, but I was working at a Broadway theatre and on course to fulfill my dreams. When they called me a week later and asked me a second time, I realized that it was the opportunity of a lifetime, and my life would be forever changed.

How were you affected by that experience? I spoke to hundreds of Holocaust survivors and their families every week for four years. Their stories of life and death, and more importantly, overcoming such profound adversity gave me a sense of perspective that has made me a much better person. I find myself always working for the underdog and listening carefully to elderly people, regardless of their race, religion or social status.

I have literally hundreds of stories that I could share, from humor and how racist slang like W.O.P. and kike came into existence, to visuals that still give me nightmares today. Overall, I am just so grateful to have been involved with and met people who have impacted me in such a huge way.

What do you think is the greatest problem our county is facing today? The greatest problem I think is FEAR. A friend of mine defined fear as F= False, E=expectations, A=appearing, R= real. Because of 9/11, the hurricane and many other catastrophes, we are all so afraid we can’t/don’t act.

If we are talking about specifics, one thing I would suggest is our biggest problem is special interests with the oil and gas industry, this impacts so many of our issues; we again are unable to act.

What is your greatest fear? Claustrophobia, I can’t stand being in very tight closed spaces with tons of people, thus part of the reason I moved from New York. Those subways just killed me!

What do you do to decompress after a busy day? Decompress, what on earth is that?

What is your idea of the perfect “get-a-way?” Going to the hot springs in Buena Vista or Steamboat Springs. Close enough to get back in a pinch far, enough away to be “OUT OF TOWN.”

Who is your favorite author? For fun I like to read Jonathan Kellerman, but for expanding myself I read Joe Vitale.

What magazine or publication couldn’t you live without? Colorado Company Magazine – this is my shameless plug for my dear friend Candy Campbell’s extraordinary business magazine that addresses all of our communities’ causes and entrepreneurship. I also like the magazine Real Simple.

How do you stay so upbeat and motivated? Frank, my family, friends and the knowledge that my late father would be so proud of my success.

How different/similar are you from/to your Mother? I am much more of a risk taker than my mother, a quality my father had. My mother taught me to create a circle of friends to be a mutual support system for the good stuff and the bad. I believe my network has only just begun to compare to hers.

What type of people do you find yourself gravitating towards? People who share my passion for life; others that want to make a difference; and those that are committed to change.

What do you appreciate and value the most in life? I am so grateful for extraordinary family and friends that are so supportive in my life.

Please share with us one of your favorite childhood memories? My father was a serious workaholic, and he worked from 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. – and still considered that a half-a-day of work. So it was very special when we could do something together. When I was a child, my dad would take me to the New England Patriot’s game, and we would go with another father and his son. We would cookout before the game on a hibachi in the back of our station wagon, and cook eggs, lox, and onions. It was a good thing when we could spend this time together.

If you were invisible, and could do anything without being seen, what would you try to do? I would become a bit of a Robin Hood. I would encourage “rich” resources however I could to give to causes that need them most. I would sit on the shoulders of big companies, financial institutions and organizations whispering relentlessly to “lend” their names, time, energy and money to our communities most in need.

What will we usually find you doing on the weekends? After doing Bikram Yoga at Yoga Energi in Cherry Creek, you will find me sitting on Frank’s couch watching CBS Sunday morning with the dog Monty.

What is your greatest indulgence? Chocolate!

What does the future hold for Rebecca Saltman? I am writing a book called the “C” Word, the Real Definition of the Word Competition (collaboration, coordination, coalition, cooperation and coffee!). And, my never-ending hope to lose ten pounds. Also, someday living in a world that has a cure for Huntington’s Disease.

What would you most like to leave behind for future generations? In Jewish tradition there is a saying that is incumbent upon each of us, “Tikun Olam,” which is defined as “repair of the world.” My life goal is to fulfill “Tikun Olam” and leave this world better than the way I found it.

Rebecca’s Community Involvement:

President – Rocky Mountain Chapter Huntington’s Disease society of America.

Local Representative of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. The only national nonprofit organization exclusively dedicated to funding research, developing prevention initiatives and offering educational programs and conferences for survivors, mental health professionals, physicians and the public.

Women’s Vision Foundation is the only professional organization in Colorado dedicated exclusively to advancing women in corporations. It provides women a vehicle to find and break the glass ceiling “without getting hurt”. Programs such as Managing for Impact, Link and the Women’s Leadership Institute, taught in an accelerated learning model are truly inspirational and have forever altered Rebecca’s life and how she does business.

Volunteer for Center for Safe Schools and Communities. Center for Safe Schools and Communities is an extraordinary nonprofit organization working toward creating a "family" of individuals that improve the way we build social skills and character with children and families. This organization has training such as Aggression Replacement Training (ART), character education, K-12 Model Guidance programs, Restorative Justice, Parent Empowerment, conflict mediation, peer helping, effective discipline programs, grant writing, alternative school development and school-wide character education.

Volunteer for Family Quest of Colorado. Family Quest of Colorado (FQC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing high-quality education, experiential skill-building activities, and follow-up coaching for youth and families, of all income levels, by increasing awareness and strength to sustain positive relationships in the home.