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Christine Benero, a Littleton native, loved working in Washington, D.C. It had to help that she scored what many people would consider a dream job. Christine was the head of our country's Domestic Peace Corps programs. So effective, she held the position under the Clinton and then Bush administration. "It's a fabulous place to be, but it wasn't a place to live and make a life. I think here in Colorado we make lives for people, and we want to make people's lives better," Christine says of our nation's capital compared to her home state. It was this thought that rung especially true for her almost six years ago.

"I was on my way to a meeting at the White House when everything started happening," Christine says. "You could hear the plane hit the Pentagon, and you could smell the smoke, and it was chaos and confusion,"

The next day, Christine went to the Pentagon as part of her job. "It's the first time I ran into the Red Cross, and it was amazing what they were doing," Christine recalls. "I'd never seen volunteerism so concentrated before, and literally, a few months after that I realized I wanted to come home and be with my family and friends."

The timing was right. The CEO position at the American Red Cross Mile High Chapter had opened up. Christine's mom, Patterson Benero, who lives in Denver, gave her daughter a special pin for the job interviews. "I had from my junior high school days during the war – don't ask which one – anyway, a little red cross, and I gave it to her for luck, and she wore it under the label of the suit."

For now three and a half years, Christine has been leading the Red Cross Mile High Chapter. "I think what I love about my job is every day I walk into a place surrounded by volunteers and staff members who have a passion for making life better for somebody else," Christine says. She says it's her job to tell people the story of the Red Cross. Perhaps the biggest chapter in that story is telling Coloradoan's how the Red Cross helps people every day–not just during major disasters. On average, every 30 hours, someone's house buns to the ground, and the Red Cross is there to help. "For that family, that is a Hurricane Katrina, a tsunami."

Another example of an "every day" job the Red Cross performs, is its transportation program. Volunteers drive people who can't to essential appointments such a doctor visits. Christine is known to come along on these rides, or with a relief crew on every day disasters. "I can't tell stories if I haven't lived those stories."

Christine's employees and volunteers like her approach to leadership and her way with people. "You're speaking to the CEO of a large organization, and yet when you are in a room with her, you could be in a room with a dozen other people, and you'll feel like you're the only other person in the room, says Erin Mounsey, who is in charge of the chapter's transportation. "It's an amazing ability she has like that."

"It's not the business of disaster," Christine says. "It's the business of hope, and that's a pretty cool job to have."

Congratulations, Christine Benero, 2007 9News Leader of the Year.

(Copyright K*USA, All Rights Reserved)

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