2008's Washingtonians of the Year: Doreen Gentzler

For 37 years, the Washingtonian has honored men and women who give their time and talent to make this a better place for all of us. Here are 2008’s.

By: Leslie Milk, Ellen Ryan

Channel 4 news anchor Doreen Gentzler stands before a crowd of 1,100 at a luncheon celebrating the Washington Area Women’s Foundation. “Look what we’ve accomplished,” she says. She means the “we” literally. Gentzler cochairs the foundation’s Washington 100, who contribute $10,000 each to invest in local programs helping women and girls.

For Gentzler, it started six years ago, when a friend asked her to join a giving circle of 25 friends pooling small contributions to make a bigger difference. The group turned to the WAWF for philanthropy training—learning how to define one’s mission, evaluate potential grantees, and decide where to invest.

“Men want to write a check,” Gentzler says. “Women enjoy the collaborative process. We made site visits together before we made decisions.” Her own group decided to support the Washington Middle School for Girls.

Joining the giving circle and the Committee of 100 has changed her life, Gentzler says. When she looks out at the audience at the WAWF, she sees not funders and recipients but partners working together to better the lives of women and girls.

Every year, Gentzler is involved in another life-changing experience: This time the lives changed are those of people with hidden health problems. As Channel 4’s health expert, Gentzler is the spokesperson for the station’s annual health-and-fitness expo.

In 2008, 80,000 people came to the expo for free screenings for diabetes, hypertension, kidney disease, and other life-threatening conditions. There are always ambulances standing by; some of the illnesses revealed are so serious that people need immediate hospital treatment.

A local girl made good—Gentzler grew up in Arlington—she has covered health stories in Bosnia, Ecuador, and the Persian Gulf and reported from a hospital ship treating US troops and Iraqi civilians. But her greatest impact is closer to home, helping Washington’s women and girls lead healthier, more promising lives.

See all of the 2008 Washingtonians of the Year

This article first appeared in the January 2009 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from that issue, click here