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15 Minutes With: Lynnea Katz-Petted

BY NAN BIALEK
PHOTO BY DAVID SZYMANSKI

Nov. 2017

In 2005, Lynnea Katz-Petted, CEO of Revitalize Milwaukee, left a lucrative corporate career to take a part-time job with the local nonprofit because, she says, “It was what I needed in my life at that point.” At the time, the organization was providing free repairs for 10 homes a year, but she saw the potential to do so much more. Now, Revitalize Milwaukee works on 340 homes per year, and, she notes, “The need out there is so incredibly extensive.”

 

How does Revitalize Milwaukee work to build communities?

Our priority goal is to keep people in their homes and revitalize neighborhoods by providing free home repairs to homeowners ages 60-plus, veterans and people with disabilities. The folks we’re dealing with are people who’ve been in their homes for 30 or 40 years, have raised families, and are finding it hard now to keep up. These are individuals who really, truly built our city and need our help now. These are people who have been holding neighborhoods together while everything else fell apart around them.
 

What appeals to you, personally, about Revitalize Milwaukee’s mission?

I am driven to do good, I think. And how that manifests on a day-to-day basis comes in many forms — sometimes it’s my actual job, sometimes by mentoring, sometimes by helping somebody or educating somebody or sometimes by setting someone straight. I feel the work we do is certainly the hardest job I’ve ever had, there are multiple facets to it, but I feel it is a true blessing to help the people who need it the most.
 

Tell us about somebody who has been helped.

There is a gentleman who is probably in his late 70s; his wife is in an assisted care facility. She has dementia, and he’s just crushed by this because she’s the love of his life. He is in a wheelchair, and he didn’t have a ramp. So we built him a ramp, so now he can go and see her, go out and get his newspaper and visit his neighbors. Also, if there was an emergency, he couldn’t have gotten out of his home without a ramp.
 

What’s an important lesson you’ve learned as CEO?

I think our world is an incredible place if you pay attention. There are lots of opportunities, and there’s magic and beautiful people and beautiful lessons everywhere we turn. Sometimes we don’t necessarily take the time to talk to some people in the way that we could. It doesn’t matter if you’re a janitor or CEO, we’re all the same, and I have lessons to learn from everybody.
 

What is the city’s greatest need right now?

Honest conversation and collaboration. There are more of us who want “different and more” for our city than those who are trying to keep it the same. There are lots of opportunity — we just have to keep on talking and not give up. There are some pretty cool people in our city, and I think those are the ones who don’t get as much attention as they should.
 

Why is mentoring a priority for you?

I come from a place of abundance, and I don’t fear helping someone rise up — it’s not only the right thing to do, it’s the best thing for the community. And I’m not the only one; there are other people doing great work and mentoring others as well.


MY FIVE FAVORITE THINGS!

1 Customized stationery

2 Random acts of kindness

3 Learning

4 Making an impact

5 I absolutely love travel and adventure.













This story ran in the Nov. 2017 issue of: