Michelle Sooby-Saldutti didn’t hesitate when asked to name the biggest strength she’s bringing to the NOVA board of directors as a new member: empathy.
She understands firsthand what clients of NOVA — an agency that counsels and empowers victims of sexual assault and other serious crimes in Bucks County — are going through. As a victim herself, and a mother of three daughters and grandmother of seven, she knows that the world isn’t always sunshine and rainbows…and that organizations like NOVA are there to help when this is the case.
“Unfortunately, you hear all these stories. You want to protect your family and you want to find ways to help with prevention of crimes in your community. So this is why I do what I do,” Sooby-Saldutti told The Times.
It was her past role as state Rep. Tina Davis’ legislative assistant that introduced her to NOVA. When constituents came in with a problem, Sooby-Saldutti drew from the office’s compilation of resources to provide needed assistance. Whenever she contacted NOVA, it never failed her.
“There are some resources that, when you reach out to them, you know something’s going to be done. They’re going to take it and help fix the problem, or aid it. NOVA was one of them,” she said. “It’s like having a reliable family member in an individual’s life where, if you go to them for help, you know they’re gonna be helpful. I felt like NOVA was a rockstar.”
Upon landing her current position as diversity, equity and inclusion coordinator at Parx Casino, Sooby-Saldutti’s working relationship with NOVA only strengthened. Oftentimes, nonprofits reach out to Parx for funding, so Sooby-Saldutti acquired a working knowledge of those doing exceptional work in the county. This, she said, included NOVA, which received a $4,000 donation during COVID thanks to her efforts.
According to Sooby-Saldutti, Parx’s director of diversity and community development Ron Davis encourages staff to get involved with local boards. Both agreed that the NOVA board was the perfect fit for her — she was passionate about the organization’s mission and had already been working with them for some time. Now, she’s excited to get started.
“It’s my responsibility, along with the other board members, to support and help to make good decisions, and help to raise money in any way we feel like we can to support NOVA,” she said. “As human beings, most of us want to do something that we think is good for our soul, so I am already engaged in thinking of ways that I can bring something more for NOVA to use to grow and keep continuing to get better.”
Sooby-Saldutti stressed that victimization can happen anywhere, even in what’s supposed to be a safe neighborhood. During her time at Davis’ office, the state representative was walking in her hometown, when she was approached by a woman who was being trafficked.
“We all have to keep our eyes open, and we need to help when we can. I want to be one of those people,” said Sooby-Saldutti. “Sometimes I get quiet and just think about how scary it is, and I say, ‘No, you can’t just be quiet. You have to try to participate in change.’”
When Sooby-Saldutti isn’t at Parx, she’s serving as a committee member of Building A Better Bensalem Together, a volunteer community coalition that aims to make the township a safer, healthier place for the next generation.
In addition to its annual Unity Week celebration in January, which encourages residents to visit various places of worship to understand different beliefs and backgrounds, B3T is gearing up for the fifth annual L.O.V.E. is the Answer Day. This initiative, set for Sept. 17, urges the public to take the following pledge:
“I pledge to LEARN about the people in my community, to unconditionally OPEN my heart to their needs as if they were all immediate family members, to VOLUNTEER to be part of the solution in their lives during both good and challenging times, and to EMPOWER everyone I meet to do the same as if our lives depended on each other.”
She is also a board member for the Greater Northeast Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Bensalem Lions Club.
Also joining the NOVA board of directors is Eddie Hale, associate counsel, Parexel, a clinical research organization located in Princeton, New Jersey, that provides a full range of Phase I to Phase IV clinical development services to help lifesaving treatments reach patients faster. Previously, Hale worked at the Princeton office of Troutman Pepper, a law firm that specializes in banking and financial services, corporate and securities, and commercial real estate. Hale is a member of the New York and New Jersey Bar Associations.
“We are so pleased to have Eddie and Michelle join NOVA’s board of directors,” said Penelope Ettinger, executive director, NOVA. “They bring varied business experience, a dedication to service and a commitment to NOVA’s mission. I am delighted to have the opportunity to work with both of them.”
Samantha Bambino can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org