Executive Director of the American Heart Association for Lehigh Valley and Northeast Pennsylvania
Originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, Abby and her family relocated to the Lehigh Valley nearly two decades ago when a career opportunity presented itself. They hadn’t heard of the Lehigh Valley before then, but decided to take a risk, pack up, and move halfway across the country. Now she’s the Executive Director of the regional American Heart Association, where she enthusiastically embraces the mission of being a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives.
As Executive Director, she oversees fundraising and awareness initiatives related to heart health. 78 cents on every dollar raised goes directly towards the mission of awareness and research, and they pride themselves on that percentage. They also offer a multitude of support programs and work closely with the healthcare systems, schools and companies in the Lehigh Valley. February is Heart Month, and with heart disease being the leading cause of death in the United States, they’re working every day to bring awareness to that and fight back.
“My favorite part about my work is the people I meet, and the stories that I get to hear every single day. I love getting to talk to someone whose life has been affected by the work that our organization is doing. We’re not only saving lives but we’re enhancing the lives of people right here in our community, and that’s a pretty good feeling.”
Things have changed quite a bit since they first relocated to Lehigh Valley roughly seventeen years ago. Early on, she recalls going to her high school reunion in Grand Rapids and her classmates were also mostly unaware of the Valley. She oriented them by first pointing to the region’s proximity to NYC and Philadelphia. Now when she goes back, she has more than enough to talk about and brags about how much is offered here, as opposed to the way it used to be when the default move was to drive an hour or so to get to the larger cities for entertainment.
“I chose to live a bit in ‘the country’ in a pretty rural area, and there are cornfields that surround my home. When my sister, who lives in Austin, found out where I was going to live, she asked “Are you becoming a farmer?” Now my family comes to visit, and we attend events like Musikfest and Christkindlmarkt, and find all the exciting things offered every single weekend in the Lehigh Valley. I’m no longer mistaken as becoming a farmer.”
She’s raised five daughters here, and the oldest one can’t wait to come back to the Lehigh Valley after graduation. She hopes to get a job in one of the local healthcare systems, the region’s largest employment sector.
“I really feel that my daughters have been given the best of opportunities within our school districts here in the Lehigh Valley, and they’ve had the opportunity to get involved with our community through various clubs and organizations they’re involved in, and we’re really encompassing when it comes to kids and letting them have the volunteerism opportunities and involvement here in the Lehigh Valley.”
In her ‘free time,’ Abby is a dedicated community advocate and volunteer; She’s also the co-founder of Every Ribbon Counts, a foundation dedicated to providing non-medical support to help make a difference in the lives of those with cancer. She’s also earned a spot on the 40-under-40 list from Lehigh Valley Business.
Live like a local
Favorite coffee spot: The Joint
Best kept secret: The entire food scene in Lehigh Valley. There’s something great offered for every type of food; If I want tacos, there’s Cactus Blue, and if I want Italian, I might be at Mama Nina’s. I’m always down for Shrimp and Grits at the Bayou, and I could go on and on…
Favorite date night spot: Main Street in Bethlehem, because you can just hop around. Drinks at one place, then dinner at another, and dessert somewhere else
Favorite place to get a drink: The Social Still