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Advocacy in Action: Debbie LaPinska Participates on United Way Suncoast Panel

March 9, 2020

How can advocating for early learning help increase the bottom line? That was the topic at a recent community panel hosted by the United Way Suncoast. Debbie LaPinska, Senior Vice President of Human Resources for PGT Innovations, served as a guest panelist during United Way Suncoast’s “Advocacy in Action” program.


Executives from PGT Innovations’ leadership team are frequently called upon to participate in and share their expertise during conferences, panels and other industry or community events. Debbie is a longtime supporter of early learning initiatives in the workplace.


“The benefits of early child care instill the cultural diversity throughout the community and help develop the whole child through mind, body and spirit,” says Debbie. “At PGT Innovations, our team knows how important early education is to our employees and their families.”


Presented by Women United, a women’s leadership program through the United Way Suncoast, the program helped educate participants on how to advocate both locally and legislatively for early learning with a focus on the return on investment for businesses that support early learning. When organizing this event, the Women United Advisory Council, a network of women in leadership positions, wanted to unite the business and philanthropic community on the measurable impacts that early learning (or a lack of access to early learning) has on the community.


At the Wednesday, Feb. 19 event, attendees heard from local leaders on how to advocate for affordable, quality child care and early learning through public policy and volunteerism. Along with Debbie, other guest panelists included Jacki Dezelski, CEO of Manatee Chamber of Commerce; Andrea Massie, a student at University of South Florida’s Sarasota-Manatee campus; and Janet Kahn, Executive Director of the Early Learning Coalition of Sarasota. The ladies shared their experience and wisdom supporting the needs of children in the community to empower others to fight for the affordability of care and early learning opportunities.


During the presentation, Debbie shared that PGT Innovations was able to prove a business case for the value of providing early learning childcare to employees as it reduced employee absenteeism and increased employee engagement, as well as employee retention. Prior to the opening of the child care center, PGT Innovations benchmarked other organizations with similar business schedules that included second shifts and weekends. That information drove decisions about coverage and the scale of the slots available. Currently, out of the 100 spots available, about 60 percent of them are occupied by families of PGT Innovations’ employees. The remaining slots are used by the community in partnership with the SKY Family YMCA.


“Two years ago, we opened the Sunshine Education Academy to serve as a cost-effective and accessible facility with top-notch care,” Debbie says. “We are honored to help fulfill such an impactful vision that assists our team members, community, and most importantly, our children.”


Operated by the Venice branch of the SKY Family YMCA, the 7,500-square-foot child care center offers convenient child care services to PGT Innovations’ families with young children, as well as parents who work in the Triple Diamond Commerce Park and the surrounding area in North Venice.


A mother of two, Debbie is known for infusing the teams she leads with an undeniable energy and passion that empowers them to dream big, set high goals, and keep striving to achieve more. Her success throughout her more than 25 years with PGT Innovations was founded on her steadfast commitment to serving the company’s customers and supporting its team members.


Debbie is recognized as a voice of authority and leadership in both her professional field and her local community, and she is passionate about helping others thrive. She regularly presents at industry conferences, gives back to her community by serving as an active board member on several charitable organizations and is a founding member of the PGT Innovations Leading Ladies program, a platform for women at PGT Innovations to learn, encourage, and celebrate accomplishments and become allies, while embracing each other through membership and building one another for leadership.

If you’re interested in learning more, we invite you to connect with the United Way Suncoast and join the conversation on their Facebook page. To make a donation to support children and families in our community, please visit their website.