Kristin Podwojski

2022 Facility Champion: Kristin Podwojski Takes Unique Path into FM Profession

Kristin Podwojski is the fourth in a series of 2022 Facility Champion profiles sponsored by Ferguson Facilities Supplies   September 21, 2022

By Dave Lubach, Managing Editor

The road to a career in facilities management is rarely a straight-line path. Even considering that, Kristin Podwojski’s journey might be the most unlikely path of them all. 

Podwojski is the director of operations for Variety, the Children’s Charity of the Delaware Valley, located outside of Philadelphia. Variety is a national non-profit organization that empowers people with disabilities. The 77-acre campus includes a number of aging buildings as well as two greenhouses and an accessible 99,000-gallon pool.  

She arrived at Variety with a background in Behavior Therapy, working with children with disabilities, and was a camp director, events and development associate before being promoted to director of operations, “because of her attention to detail, ability to navigate complex systems, ability to manage external relationships well, and passion and interest for facilities, fixing things, and saving money,” says Dominique Bernardo, the Variety CEO who nominated Podwojski for a 2022 Facility Champion Award

Excess funds and non-profit organizations don’t always go hand-in-hand, meaning extra hurdles for Podwojski in her position. With a staff of only 1.75 employees, she has a team of 1,000 volunteers who help with repairs and cleaning. The small staff forces her to get creative, so she recruited a team of employees from a local big box home improvement store to renovate the first floor of the campus’ farmhouse that dates to the 1700s to use for vocational training for young adults with disabilities.  

“Every cost-saving measure as well as every in-kind donation means more resources for our kids,” Bernardo says. 

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The position also requires a lot of heart. When the pH levels in the Variety’s pool were unbalanced and forced to close, instead of ceding the day, Podwojski improvised with various supplies and water toys to design a slip-and-slide water table to ensure kids still got their water time.  

“In the recent eight-week summer season that our organization just completed, we have upwards of 100 children and young adults with disabilities on our campus on a daily basis working on education goals, learning vocational skills, and engaging in recreational activity,” Podwojski says. “Keeping the facilities in a high-quality state requires careful preparation, problem solving in crisis situations, and a watchful eye. The learning, growth and fun the kids are able to have are a testament to the work the team I supervise puts in as well as our organization as a whole.” 

Fundraising is also an important part of Podwojski’s role at Variety.  

“Kristin has brought in at least three new corporate groups over the past year to volunteer on our campus, which will have long term benefits as the relationship grows,” Bernardo says. “Kristin played a lead role in a new event called Holiday Lane that brought 1,400 people to campus in December and grossed $30k in revenue. The event centered around our facilities and decorations, and she worked collaboratively with hundreds of volunteers to make the event a success.” 

Though she has already made the unlikely leap in careers from Behavior Therapy to Facilities Management, Podwojski continues expand her knowledge base as she’s currently completing her certification in Facilities Management. And she has set some strong goals both for her future and Variety’s chapter in the Philadelphia area. 

“My ultimate goal is to put my organization in a position to be a leader in the disability services field for the next 87 years,” she says. “Having held many positions and fallen in love with the work and the people I get to do it with, I am determined to put the organization in a position to continue its mission. My near goals in the future revolve around making sure that the transition from our existing campus to the new campus we have begun building is seamless and not disruptive to the work we do.” 

Kristin Podwojski is the fourth in a series of 2022 Facility Champion profiles sponsored by Ferguson Facilities Supply. Podwojski and other champions were recognized for their leadership and creativity in Facilities Management by FacilitiesNet. Honorees have been invited to participate in a Facility Champions Roundtable at NFMT Remix at Paris Las Vegas Resort, Nov. 2-3.  

Dave Lubach is managing editor of the facility market. 


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