Renata B. Kowalczyk is the CEO of Wilmington Alliance, as well as this week’s #PeopleOfWilmDE! Read her story below:
“I’m Polish-American. I came to the USA as a 22-year-old student, alone and directly from Poland, with $20 in my pocket and knowing only 3 sentences in English. It was 2 days after the Berlin Wall came down. My first job in NYC was a nanny, and second was a bartender. I also spent 4 years in the fitness industry building and managing gyms in the city. After receiving my bachelor’s degree in Economics from Baruch College – CUNY in 1997, I started a career in financial services and management consulting industries. In 2004, I received MBA from Columbia University.
After 19 years in NYC, I lived in Washington D.C, Maryland, North of Seattle, and back in NYC. In July 2015, JPMorgan Chase (my employer at that time) relocated me, per my request, to Wilmington. I live in the tiny neighborhood of Happy Valley, right in the city.
For years I wanted to transition my career from corporate to the nonprofit sector. In November 2018, Wilmington offered me that opportunity when I became the Managing Director of Wilmington Renaissance Corporation (WRC). Now I lead the Wilmington Alliance.
Launching Wilmington Alliance in August of 2019 and being the CEO of this organization is an honor and an opportunity to give back to the city that has been really good to me.
I like to give back to the community however I can, and serve on nonprofit boards and councils. I was a member of the Rotary Club of Wilmington. I got to be emcee a couple of times at one of my most favorite festivals, the Ladybug Festival. Now my full-time job is to be of service to the community.
I choose to work and live in Wilmington for so many reasons:
- Wilmington is a leafy city – I love that we have so many parks and trees. I live across the street from one of those – Brandywine Park.
- I walk everywhere! I do not own a car and I get to walk to the office Downtown and all the urban villages, i.e. Trolley Square, Downtown, Riverfront. I walk to our parks, including doing the 10 mile Greenway hike and bike to the Historical New Castle on the Markell Trail.
- Wilmington is a short train ride between two metropolitan areas I lived in and get to visit often.
- Wilmington has a thriving arts scene. I love live music and live theater, and both are strong here.
I love that we are so connected here! Because I walk everywhere I get to see many folks I know and meet new ones. The city has a strong sense of community and I love that I get to experience that on a daily basis.
My biggest concerns about the community are about the small businesses staying open. This is the reason we launched the WilmingtonMADE shop local campaign. I’m hopeful about the partnerships and us working together. Wilmington Alliance’s vision is for Wilmington to be a thriving community that offers opportunities and access to all.
I have so many favorite memories here. Some of the most cherished ones are my next-door neighbors knocking at my door to share a dinner they cooked, or returning home from a long day and finding a bouquet of flowers on my front porch from another community leader in the city. Recently, a fellow gardener from another neighborhood offered to water my vegetable garden and harvest it for a month so that I could spend that time in the Pacific Northwest. There is so much love here!
Overall my biggest advice is to sign up for the IN Wilmington calendar, take advantage of the many cultural and social activities, take a stroll or a bike ride through our parks, support a restaurant, find a nonprofit that aligns with your passion and volunteer. See yourself as a steward of this community and give back because we receive a great deal.”