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A caring heart and a heart for caring

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Brenda Gibson

Brenda Gibson

Karen Zelden

RALEIGH, N.C. — Say the name Brenda Gibson in the Triangle-area nonprofit community, and you most likely will get a big smile and the kind of effusive praise generally reserved for heads of state and rock stars.

Undoubtedly, a story about one of Brenda’s many successes for the numerous organizations that have benefited from her passion and tenacity will follow.

A Raleigh native, Brenda’s passion to give back started in the 1970’s when she entered Wake County Memorial Hospital, now WakeMed, as a candy striper.

Brenda’s caring heart and heart for caring was tested in the WakeMed Heart Center when her husband, Ron, had unexpected heart surgery there in 1997.

Since then, impressed by WakeMed and its transition from a county hospital to a modern, private, not-for-profit hospital, Brenda’s generosity has known no bounds.

Putting to work her talents as a successful commercial real estate broker, Brenda has contributed to raising millions of dollars for WakeMed programs and initiatives that directly have benefited our community. She also has served in numerous leadership positions, including chair of the WakeMed Foundation board of directors.

Brenda has her sights squarely fixed on a new challenge for WakeMed. Along with Ron Doggett, Brenda is leading WakeMed’s effort to raise $20 million to build a much needed children’s hospital in Wake County.

Those that know Brenda have no doubt that the campaign will succeed because of her involvement.

“I have had the pleasure of serving with Brenda for many years,” says Tom Oxholm, chair of the WakeMed Foundation board and chair of the board’s finance committee. “When a potential WakeMed donor meets with Brenda, her dedication, personal commitment and, most importantly, her enthusiasm come through. The combination makes it nearly impossible for the prospect to say no.”

WakeMed Foundation Executive Director Jack Radford, a long-time friend and former classmate of Brenda’s, agrees.

In addition to WakeMed, over the years Brenda’s talent has benefited many organizations in the Triangle area, including Easter Seals, Hospice of Wake County, the Occoneechee Council of Boy Scouts of America, Alliance Medical Ministry, Triangle United Way and the Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce.

In 2006, Brenda also helped launch the Women’s Network of Wake County, a giving society committed to leveraging the power of collective philanthropy, particularly to benefit the needs of women and children. This group of dedicated philanthropists, started with a handful of members 3 years ago, now has over 100 members.

To those who know Brenda well, words like engaging, passionate, persuasive, relentless, funny, successful, charming, tenacious and focused punctuate their descriptions about her.

As someone who recently entered the world of philanthropy and has the good fortune to work with Brenda, I add another: mentor. Brenda gives generously of her time to help those who share her passion for giving back to our community succeed.


Karen Zelden is director of major gifts for the WakeMed Foundation. The WakeMed Foundation partners with WakeMed Health & Hospitals to raise funds for initiatives and projects that benefit our community.

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