Doorways Board Chairperson Receives 2014 Women of Achievement

diane_levine

Doorways’ Board Chairperson, Diane Gershman Levine, receives 2014 Women of Achievement award.  For 59 years, Women of Achievement has recognized women who have a record of leadership in volunteer service to the greater St. Louis community, including Illinois.

Diane Levine’s heart broke as she watched each of her friends who developed HIV die during the onset of the AIDS epidemic.  It was the ’70s in Washington D.C., and the St. Louis native was moved to change the trajectory of her career as a teacher to help people in need — particularly those who were shunned, homeless and suffering from AIDS.

When Levine returned to St. Louis, she devoted her time to nonprofit work, eventually becoming a hotline counselor and volunteer case manager for St. Louis Effort for AIDS.  Levine went on to become a professional counselor and clinical social worker.  “A lot of people will probably tell you that becoming a therapist is a calling,” she says.  “I love people; I am interested in their stories, and I believe in healing.  It’s just who I am.”  Levine’s experience and expertise in counseling led to a 12-year relationship with Doorways, where she now serves as board chair.  Doorways provides housing and services to those with HIV and AIDS, annually serving 2,300 adults and kids in the St. Louis area.  The process of helping these patients also is healing for Levine, after losing so many close friends to the disease decades ago.  “With so many advancements in medicine and less of a societal stigma, most of today’s HIV and AIDS patients have access to the help they need”, Levine explains.  “People used to come to Doorways to die; now they come to Doorways to live.”

In an effort to continue to help the community’s most vulnerable residents – the homeless and the hungry – Levine became a founding member of College Bound.  The organization helps under-served youth through an intensive year-round program of academic enrichment, life skills and social support to help them enter and succeed in a four-year college.  Now in its eighth year, College Bound serves more than 1,500 students, including 250 who are attending universities.  “There’s lots of research documenting that a person who gets a degree changes the direction of poverty for generations thereafter,”  Levine notes. “If there’s a cure to poverty, education is it.”

Diane is married and has two married sons and one grandchild.  She is proud and grateful to be honored as a Woman of Achievement and looks forward to many more years of volunteerism in the St. Louis community.