2012 OTTY Awards: Making a Real Impact in Community Service

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By Alexander Tucciarone

Managing residential and commercial properties is Debra Fechter's profession. Making sure these properties are located in strong, safe communities is her passion.

As a partner of the Digby Management Company, Fechter is responsible for determining what makes properties valuable. In her personal life, she has shown that what made her so successful in real estate has also made her a leader in community service. She does this through her involvement with numerous philanthropic organizations, including the East Midtown Partnership and the New York City Police Foundation.

"One of the nice things about my work is that I get to solve problems with a group of people with such diverse interests," Fechter said. "Given their differences, these groups can each contribute something of unique value."

With the East Midtown Partnership, Fechter works with business owners, residents and other community members to reach common-sense solutions to quality of life issues. Her work with the Foundation, The Doe Fund and Bowery Residents' Committee is typical of her "everyone wins" approach to community service.

The Doe Fund pays homeless citizens to help maintain city neighborhoods by collecting trash and shoveling snow. This provides employment to homeless individuals and improves life for everyone living and working in the community.

"What The Doe Fund does is a remarkable thing," Fechter said. "It is a very good feeling to be a part of the work that they do."

Judy Dynia, director of development for the New York City Police Foundation, has worked with Fechter in her capacity as a member of NYPD Crimestoppers. Fechter's role on this committee is to help determine the reward amount for various fugitives.

"Whenever Debra makes a recommendation, it's clear that she's analyzed the issue," Dynia said. "She builds consensus and does this in a professional way."

Fechter also shows her support for law enforcement by purchasing an ad every year in the journal of the Police Foundation. She uses the ad to celebrate the work of the NYPD.

"She knows that having safe streets is so important for having successful businesses," Dynia said. "She personalizes her generosity by giving both her time and resources in a graceful, professional way."

Fechter was involved in philanthropy long before she entered the working world. As a high school student growing up in New Rochelle, she volunteered at an after-school program for people with special needs.

"Giving up my time for the less fortunate was always something encouraged by example from my family," Fechter said.

That example continues as her two daughters follow her lead. Her eldest daughter is enrolled at New York University's Silver School of Social Work and her youngest is involved in volunteer work at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in upstate New York.

Despite all of the professional accolades, Fechter is humble about her accomplishments.

"I feel lucky to be a part of all this and for the chance to contribute in my small way," she said.

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