As strong women go, Cindy Dalecki and Rebecca DeLorenzo could bench press Flagler County.
In their own way they do so every day—Dalecki as the owner of Marketing 2 Go, a nimble company that helps organizations brand their way through the ever-mutating world of social media, DeLorenzo as the executive vice president of the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce and Affiliates, where men like to think they still run the show.
Dalecki and DeLorenzo have just been named women of the year: Dalecki got the United Way’s Women’s Initiative of Flagler County’s Outstanding Woman of the Year Award (“honoring one who truly does live united”), and did so on the heels of the president’s Volunteer Service Award (with a letter from Barack Obama.) The Flagler Business Women named DeLorenzo the organization’s 2012 Woman of the Year, capping a rather successful year for the DeLorenzos: 10 months ago, her husband Jason was elected to the Palm Coast City Council.
“We’re both smart business women, and we want to provide a better place for our children to grow up in, and see the community and the economy grow and stay healthy,” Dalecki says. The two women’s paths naturally cross frequently, as do a surprising number of themes in their mutual lives—family, volunteering, projecting a strong image for other women.
“Out of all the other nominees I was humbled that I was selected,” DeLorenzo says. “It’s an honor and a responsibility. As a working woman you always have to balance being a wife, being a mother and being a professional. The responsibility part is making sure that I teach Lorelei to be a strong and independent woman who can live up to her potential. And other women, empowering those who can’t help themselves or learning from the ones that can.” Lorelei is her nearly-4-year-old daughter.
DeLorenzo, 35, was born in DeLand, grew up in Ormond Beach, and moved to Port Orange for high school. She graduated from Spruce Creek High in 1995. At the end of 1997 she went to a vocational school for travel and tourism in Kissimmee and began working at Grenada Travel in Ormond at the end of 1998. The company helped her attend what was then Daytona Beach Community College, where she got a two-year degree before taking a partial scholarship and completing a BA in communications at Embry Riddle Aeronautic University in 2003. She graduated one month after she got married to Jason.
She briefly worked in catering sales for a hotel, then a title company, and in 2007, while she was going through the chamber’s Leadership Flagler, she learned of an opening for the position of vice president for special events there. Donald O’Brien was the interim president of the chamber at the time. He hired her.
The next day, Doug Baxter, the current president, was hired. “So I’m his senior by one day,” DeLorenzo says. The following year he promoted her to executive vice president. She supervises a staff of 10 and runs the day-to-day operations of the chamber, letting Baxter, who loves the limelight far more than she does, be its more public face. Her affinity for background is also why she said, while her husband was winning his first race for public office, that she’d never follow in his political steps. But she has goals. One of them was stacked a foot high next to her at her desk—a dozen books and reams of flash cards she was using in a 15-week course to earn the Certified Association Executive designation through the American Society of Association Executives. The exam is on Dec. 7, Pearl Harbor day.
Sure there’s a good old boys’ network in Flagler County, but, she says, “I think you’re going to have that regardless of whether we’re in New Jersey or Seattle or anywhere. Women have come a long way but we still have a long way to go, and men, you know, we’ve got to teach them.” That good old boys’ network in Flagler, she says, “is more of a perception thing that anything else.” Some people have been around for a very long time, they’ve done a lot for the community, “and we still need to look to them, gain their insights so that we can learn from their history so that we can learn to not repeat it,” DeLorenzo says. Her sense of irony is among her understated gifts.
Naturally, she’s had experiences dealing with men that evoke mentalities from distant centuries. “Some people still view men and women to have different roles in different jobs, you know—in all industries,” she says. “Everybody is going to struggle with that. We’re still dealing with the glass ceiling, we’re still dealing with the fact that women get paid 76 cents to the dollar that men get paid. I think that we’ll get past that, but it’s probably going to take a little bit of time.”
Aside from being the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce and Affiliates’ second-in-command, a mother and a particular sort of wife (marriage to a politician being the salt mine that it is), DeLorenzo is an executive board member of the Flagler County Education Foundation and chairs its Dell Trayer Teacher Grant committee. She’s also a board member of the Florida Association of Chamber Professionals and the Family Life Center.
Which begs the question: When will she be president of the chamber? “I would strive to that one day, when the time is right,” she says, quite candidly, though she wouldn’t be the first woman president: Linda Jarosz and Paty Wright preceded her in that role (the latter only briefly). Somewhere along the way there might be a book in DeLorenzo, who likes to write. It would probably be about her life and her mother, who had her at a very young age. “My mom fought very hard to make sure I grew up in a well-rounded home with loving parents. She inspires me to tell her story about what she had to go through and what she did so that I could have a normal, stable life,” DeLoreno says.
Dalecki might have said the same thing. And did (they were interviewed separately, unaware of the other’s reflections).
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do in college, and my mom actually suggested it. And you know, moms are right about 100 percent of the time no matter how old you are,” Dalecki says. She was with her mother and with Kelli O’Reilly, co-owner of Blue at the Topaz, the Flagler Beach restaurant, at her award ceremony. She was taking pictures, unaware that she was the one, when she heard her name.
“It almost feels when I volunteer that it’s really not giving. I almost feel like it’s taking, because it feels so good to give,” Dalecki says, recalling some of the words she said that evening. “Not only do you feel good about yourself, you feel good that you’re doing it for your community and families in your community. I really believe that we’re put on this earth to help as many people as we can while we’re here.”
Now 42, Dalecki was born in Wichita, Kansas, an Air Force brat, moving every three years—Germany, Illinois, Kansas, and finally Florida in 9th grade, landing at DeLand High School and the University of Central Florida, where she got a degree in journalism with advertising and PR specialties.
Dalecki’s first job was with a computer company, then a travel agency specializing in cruises, and briefly for a Bell South subcontractor before ending up at the News-Journal, where she worked for eight years, most of them as an outside sales representative in Flagler County. That’s where she laid the foundations for Marketing 2 Go, the 3-year-old company she owns. She was among the nearly 400 News-Journal employees fired from 2007 to 2010 as the paper was changing ownership and downsizing, “which was the best thing that ever happened to me,” she says. It helped her reinvent herself while inventing a new kind of company for Flagler County. Artie Gardella of One on One Fitness was her first customer who told her he liked what she was doing to help charities, but wanted her to apply the method to his business. That’s how her business took off.
Dalecki and her husband David are parents of two boys—13-year-old Dalton and 10-year-old Tyler. “Really I couldn’t do all of what I do without Dave,” she says, crediting his influence and presence with their boys as she tends to her innumerable duties. She serves on a list of boards: Teens-in-Flight, the United Way’s Chicks with Cans (the champion charity that raises literally tons of food for the needy in the run-up to Thanksgiving every year), the Palm Coast Chamber of Commerce, the Flagler Beach Historical Museum, with close affiliations to the Young professionals Group of Flagler County and the Flagler Beach Rotary. And along with that, she says, she’s “just building a little company on the side.”
“But it all ties together,” Dalecki says, volunteering trade secrets. “The more your name is out there, the more people you’re meeting, and volunteering, the better it does for your business as well, because the more people know who you are, and when they’re in the market for your service, no matter what it is you sell, you know they’ll think of you. That’s what I tell my customers as well. Get out there, get involved, cross-marketing. Make sure to align your business with a charity. Not only are you improving your community, and making it a better place to live, you’re making other people feel good about your business as well.”
Not to mention catching the attention of award engravers, and the odd president.
Rebecca DeLorenzo’s award dinner, on Oct. 15 at the Palm Coast Hilton garden Inn, is open to the public.