This June we are showcasing CMOs who use their time and talent to make a positive impact and highlight charities that have benefited from CMO expertise through participation in the CMO Club Cares program. This time around, we highlight CMO Club member Gina McDuffie, CMO at Treker, and Founder of Build For Good, a private consulting company serving start-ups. Gina is currently the Chairman of the Board for Life Teen, a Roman Catholic-based charity, and works personally with teenagers and families on goodwill missions here at home and around the globe.

CMO Club — Welcome. Can you tell us about your charities and how you got involved with them?

Gina McDuffie — I’m currently Chairman of the Board of an organization called Life Teen, a Catholic youth ministry, providing weekly programs, camps, and leadership training for teenagers. We have a ministry in Haiti, and we do work in 26 other countries all around the world.

CMO Club — How did you get involved with them?

Gina McDuffie — When I was a teenager I was very much on the fence, very conflicted about who I was and it was because someone reached out to me through that program that I decided chose the path I did. It was where I found my self-worth and it changed my life. I made a commitment way back then to always be involved so I can, in turn, give other teenagers a chance. I have a lot of empathy for teenagers. People say the youth is our future, but the youth also is our present. They’re not given enough credit, especially now. We can learn a lot from teenagers when we listen without judgement.

CMO Club — Are you involved in a more hand-on manner as well?

Gina McDuffie — My hands are all over it. The real satisfaction I have is actually being with the kids. I took my daughter and a group of other teenagers to Haiti in January, where we spent time at our mission base, doing everything from service projects around the base and the school to visiting a prison. That, to me, is another example of where you can learn from a teenager. The prison visit was a lot more intense than I anticipated. All of the adults on our trip were very anxious about the sounds and the smells coming from the prison, where up to forty men were crammed into 12×12 cells with only a tattered pair of boxers for clothes. We were all standing outside, hesitant to enter for what we might experience there. My fourteen –year-old daughter was the first one to say, “Alright, let’s do this. This is why we’re here.” She walked right into the prison, up to the first cell, and put her hands through the bars, grabbed one of the prisoner’s hands and said, “Hi, my name is Davryn, what’s your name?” So often we say we have things to teach teenagers, but it turns out they have a lot to teach us, as well.

Gina’s daughter, Davryn, in Haiti with a new friend.

CMO Club — That’s very powerful. Are you involved in any other teen-based programs?

Gina McDuffie — In addition to my work with Life Teen, I look for other opportunities to help teens realize how awesome they are. In April I asked a few parents if I could take their kids to Mexico to build houses for the working poor with an organization called Baja Bound. Much to my surprise, several parents said yes and I drove a truck load of kids 9 hours south of the border to a farming area where families live in cardboard shelters. In just a few days we built a sturdy home, alongside a very grateful family. The kids did things they never knew they could do, and changed some lives in the process. I am hoping to do a trip to Uganda in August and another trip to Mexico in the fall.

CMO Club — Wow. What has all this good work meant to you personally?

Gina McDuffie — It’s really who I am. It’s what feeds my soul, and it’s something I have to share so it so it becomes a ripple that can affect others. It’s what we are called to do as human beings. I recently left my CMO job at VER, and my time in transition has been a huge gift. I was reminded that I am so more than the sum of my professional accomplishments and experiences. I was also reminded that professionally and personally, I am a builder. I get a lot of satisfaction out of building confidence in others, and that has helped me get back to who I am.

CMO Club — Do you think your work is making a difference?

Gina McDuffie — It’s on both ends, really, especially when you see this family of nine, who now have a roof over their heads and a door that locks. To see the father of the family crying as these kids are handing him the keys, you know it’s changed his life and his family’s life, but also, the teenager’s lives have changed, too. You can’t help but be changed. Opportunities like this help all of us to become the best version of ourselves.

CMO Club — Has the CMO Club helped you?

Gina McDuffie — I’m even more drawn to The CMO Club because of the Club Cares program. I want to surround myself with people who also have a heart for service, and the club is filled with those good people.

Check out how other CMOs have made an impact here.