FEW Spotlight

FEW Spotlight

Michelle Sperzel

FEW Member since July 2018


I was born and grew up in Wisconsin (Go Packers!). I’m the youngest of three children and had a simply amazing childhood with my brother and my sister. My parents are wonderful, and I’m excited to be going back to Wisconsin in January to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary.

You and family

I think one word that describes me is adventurer. I love to try new things: tasting new foods, traveling to new places, and meeting new people. In my free time I travel, read, garden or exercise. I have an amazing partner, and we have three cocker spaniels, a mystery terrier, and a tortoise kitty.

Proudest accomplishment

To date my proudest moment was finishing my first marathon. I am an asthmatic. Countless doctors have told me I could never run, exercise, or even walk without ending up hospitalized. One doctor told me that he wanted to enter me into an environmental study that would require me to live in a bubble for a few days! Needless to say, crossing that finish line was a huge personal moment. It was me proving to myself that, if I put my mind to it, I could accomplish anything and also proving a few people wrong.

Two personal surprises

I don’t like roller coasters. I love to bake cookies. At Christmas, I will make 10 – 15 different kinds of cookies and give them all away.

Career path

I’ve been in the nonprofit sector my entire career as an advocate for women and children. Right out of college, I started at a nonprofit hospital as their PR coordinator. While there, I volunteered for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. I was hired by the foundation and later moved on to be a part of the National Breast Cancer 3 Day, a large-scale event that raised millions of dollars for breast cancer research.

I started working in the domestic violence movement in 2006. It has been absolutely life-changing. When I was working in the breast cancer field, I used to say, “I am raising money to help someone I haven’t met yet”. At Harbor House I see who we are helping. I know that we’re raising money and making a difference in our community by changing the generational cycle of violence within a family.

My role at Harbor House is to inspire and engage everyone with whom I come into contact to work for the betterment of survivors and our community. It is my job to ensure that our team fulfills its role and moves our mission. I make sure every day that our mission and clients are the focus. I do that by policy and plan development, staff leadership and system development, and program assessment, development, implementation, and evaluation.I am also the chief fundraiser, the chief cheerleader, and the leader in building a culture of philanthropy.

Career support received

When I was making the career change from breast cancer work to the domestic violence world, a wonderful friend of mine told me I needed two things: a mentor and a sponsor.  She was correct. Years later I am still very close with my mentor, and I’ve been blessed to have several amazing sponsors who believed in me.

Important causes

I am very passionate about causes that empower women and girls. I love my work at Harbor House and am fortunate to know that I am making a difference every day in the life of someone in our community.

Favorite quotes

“The only constant is change.” – Heraclitus. The same philosopher illustrated the point about change being ever present by saying “No man ever steps into the same river twice”. An ever-flowing river is there and even has a name, yet the water in it keeps changing so that from one second to the next it is really a different river. To me this means we cannot stop the hands of time and, as time marches forward, it drags change along with it. So, we must face the inevitable fact that change is coming. We must also cease to fear change. Change is only traumatic if we try to resist it or if we position and entrench ourselves on the wrong side of history.

This leads me to my other favorite quote, “Be the change that you want to see in the world”- Ghandi. This quote provokes me to get up, get out, and do something.

Most memorable trip

When I graduated from Marquette University, I traveled around the United States for four months. I hiked, backpacked, and slept in tents, cabins, cars, and the occasional hotel. The views and blisters are incredibly memorable. I traveled to Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Texas, Kansas, and Iowa. I visited as many national parks as possible and slept under the tallest tree in the world. I witnessed the most beautiful sunrises and sunsets. The journey was life-changing. It was the first time I realized that I am in control of my future, that motivation comes from within, that I don’t have to be driven by deadlines, approval, or money to accomplish life goals. On the trip, I fell in love with the southwest and decided to move from Wisconsin to Arizona.

Value of FEW

Being new to Central Florida, I researched groups that were woman-focused. Beverly Paulk and Verbelee Nielsen-Swanson recommended I attend a FEW meeting. I love that FEW is focused on women in leadership. Women are still outnumbered by men in the most prestigious positions, from Capitol Hill to the board room. The only way to address and overcome barriers facing women is having more women in positions of leadership, providing the support and role models women need to advance in their careers, and bringing about much needed changes in the workplace benefitting both genders. I’ve already experienced support from my FEW sisters and look forward to further developing professional and personal relationships.