Hearing the Need
Kelly DiBenedetto runs the Danville Chamber and a nonprofit for deaf children
By Stephanie Dolan
Kelly DiBenedetto has a passion for helping people with hearing loss, experience running a nonprofit and a business background in corporate marketing, and now she is helping businesses establish, grow and retain their presence in Danville.
In December she was named the new Danville Chamber of Commerce executive director. Before coming to the chamger, she worked as the chief marketing officer at an Indianapolis credit union.
Kelly DiBenedetto’s passion for helping others and business background merged into her new position as the executive director of the Danville Chamber of Commerce. Her nonprofit Katie’s Hear to Help pays for children’s hearing aids for families who can’t afford them. (Photos by Eric Pritchett)
“I was there for seven years, but I was really looking for something to marry my nonprofit world with the business world,” she said. “I wanted something that had a little more meaning and that was in the town that I love. That’s how I came to the chamber.”
DiBenedetto is a Brownsburg native, although she now lives and works in Danville. She and her husband, Chris recently celebrated their 20th anniversary. In fact, Chris may be the long lost cousin of famous vocalist Tony Bennett whose given last name is also DiBenedetto.
“He’s a very long lost cousin,” DiBenedetto said. “While it would make my day, he certainly won’t be visiting us to sing for our 20th anniversary.”
The couple has two children, 17-year-old Katie and 15-year old Christopher.
DiBenedetto has also used her business management from Indiana State University in her position as board chairman for the Indiana School for the Deaf. This governor-appointed position came about as a result of her work with her own nonprofit Katie’s Hear to Help and with the state funded plan for the deaf, Hear Indiana.
DiBenedetto’s daughter Katie was born with hearing loss. She went through four sets of hearing aids by the time she was 4 years old. After home and auto, hearing aids are the number three purchase for the DiBenedetto family.
Once when she was writing a check for a new set of hearing aids, DiBenedetto asked what people did who couldn’t afford them. She was told they either went without them or they got analog hearing aids (basically just a speaker with a volume knob) that are not recommended for children.
That experience launched her time working with the deaf community at large. After research, she told Chris she’d developed a passion for helping others with hearing loss. In 2008 they started Katie’s Hear to Help, a nonprofit that purchases hearing aids for children.
“We’ve done several fundraisers over the years, and we still do a lot of advocacy work with the state,” DiBenedetto said. “We’re kind of a backup when the state plan Hear Indiana runs out.”
In 2010 DiBenedetto was part of a group that organized legislation for a state plan to buy hearing aids for children. The plan was finally funded just a few years ago, but it is still not enough to help all those in need. That’s where Katie’s Hear to Help comes in to play.
Because of her work, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett named May 1, 2019, Kelly DiBenedetto Day.
“I was there to receive an award from Hear Indiana, and that was a real surprise when they started reading that proclamation,” she said. “My kids are keeping me grounded though. They’ve told me we’re not celebrating every year on May 1.”
On top of all this, DiBenedetto is somehow finding time to run the Danville Chamber of Commerce.
She’s starting with the goals for the organization that connects business owners to each other through networking, educational seminars and community events. She’s working to update the group’s strategic plan and started a new ambassador program.
“I would love to be able to touch 198 businesses myself, but I can’t.,” she said. “So, the ambassadors are the ones who reach out to local businesses and find out their needs and how we can best support them. They’re a welcoming arm, I would say.”
Since DiBenedetto started, taking over for Marcia Lynch who retired after nine years as executive director, Danville town manager Mark Morgan has witnessed positive leadership and changes.
“She’s an extremely forward thinker,” Morgan said. “She’s looking out for the best interests of our citizens and our businesses. I love the fact that she is actively pursuing businesses to come into our community.”
DiBenedetto recently secured a Wendy Swanson Photography new on the Square who is leasing space on Danville’s Courthouse Square. When brainstorming about businesses that would thrive on the Square, someone suggested a photographer.
“If you go on the Square any given weekend, you’ll usually see people getting pictures on the Square,” she said. “Now we have Wendy Swanson Photography on the Square.”
DiBenedetto is working on future goals for the chamber and hopes to include them in the strategic plan.
“I really want the board to drive those goals and what their needs are,” she said. “We took a survey of our members, and we’ll get more information from that.”
Above all, DiBenedetto wants to give back to her community.
“To know that my doing my job is helping the community, whether it be through businesses or nonprofits, just helping the community overall is what I want to do,” she said.
She’s felt overwhelming support and welcome from the town leaders and business community.
“It’s been almost idyllic,” DiBenedetto said. “The board has been 100% supportive of me and some of the changes I look to make. It’s been great. I hope that over the next year or so businesses are really going to see the value in being a member of the Danville Chamber.”
Getting to know Kelly DiBenedetto
What do you do to relax? Watch my kids play sports — Katie is a swimmer, and she is trying pole vaulting this spring. My son plays baseball and football. It’s not always that relaxing, but it’s my absolute favorite thing to do.
Do you have pets? Two dogs and one cat
What is your favorite TV show? I don’t watch TV. I prefer to read a book.
What are you currently reading? I read really cheesy novels, but right now I’m also reading “Core 52: A Fifteen-Minute Daily Guide to Build Your Bible IQ in a Year.” I’m really enjoying that.
What is your favorite movie? “The Godfather” series and the “Rocky” series. I also like the new “Creed.”
Who or what inspires you? My family