Rae D. Baldino never felt like she fit any one mold, so she forged a path just as unique as her.
Baldino started her career as a journalist, the goal she aimed for since she was in college. Today, she’s director of communications and development for UCP of Northeastern Pennsylvania in downtown Scranton. While she never imagined she’d wind up in the world of nonprofits, a series of opportunities led her to where she is today — and Baldino couldn’t be happier.
“You know that saying ‘When you make plans, God laughs?’ He’s always laughing at me,” said Baldino, who lives in Clarks Summit with her husband, John, and their Yorkie, Liza Belle. “If you would have told me 10 years ago that this is what I would be doing, I would’ve never believed it. That’s just life, though. You have to move where it takes you.”
Through UCP — which serves children, adolescents, adults and seniors with intellectual, developmental and physical disabilities — Baldino helps connect the organization and the community through initiatives such as this past March’s Go Green Day, which encouraged the community to wear the color in support of the 17 million people living with cerebral palsy.
The work Baldino does fits in with her own ethos as she feels paying it forward is the least she can do. At 3 days old, she was adopted by Ann Marie and Dr. Peter G. Decker. Growing up in Shavertown, her parents always instilled in her and her brother, Peter, a sense of giving back. Baldino noted her mother’s strength and giving heart. Her dad was a doctor who took care of his patients like they were family. When he died when she was 16, Baldino realized the scope of her father’s generosity.
“It was the night of his wake, and the people just waited in the bitter cold for hours. (The line) was wrapped around the block, and they didn’t move,” she said. “If I could have half of his goodness, his work ethic, his generosity, I would be happy.”
Working with individuals with disabilities also is close to Baldino’s heart. As a teenager, she was diagnosed with a learning disability, and school was a constant challenge. She also struggled with her mental health, and enrolling in therapy was a blessing, the Abingtons woman said.
Today, she’s vocal about people taking care of their mental health. She also spreads a message of inclusion for those with disabilities and equality.
“Anything that makes us different is a not weakness,” Baldino said.
Baldino’s classroom experience changed once she entered Misericordia University. Her professor-turned-friend, Melissa Sgroi, approached Baldino — a freshman with no previous web experience — about getting the college’s newspaper online. Armed with an “HTML for Dummies” book, Baldino taught herself the complicated language of coding and created the website. While she ran into snags, she finally felt comfortable learning.
Thanks to the university’s comprehensive communications program, Baldino said, her diverse skill set helped her land a job with a local newspaper before she finished college. The opportunity also helped her realize the importance of leaving her comfort zone.
“You’ve gotta just go for things in life and take chances,” she said. “What’s the worst that can happen? You fail? Everyone fails. So you fail, and then you start over again.”
After several years in the newsroom, another job opportunity came along. While it was in a completely different field — working for Kraft in sales and customer service — her gut told her to take it. Leaps of faith had got her that far and, if she didn’t like the work, it only narrowed down her options for the future.
From there, Baldino made the switch to nonprofit organizations, which she fell in love with. She was community relations manager of United Way of Wyoming Valley before making the move closer to home at UCP. Baldino’s job fills her with joy every day, from the work she does to the individuals who use UCP’s services to her colleagues.
“The true commitment to their work is unbelievable and rare,” she said, adding that her different careers have helped her appreciate all the moving parts of a workplace. “They are so humble. I’m blessed to be part of such an incredible team.”
In her downtime, Baldino volunteers as much she can, including involvement with the Catholic Women’s Conference, UNICO Scranton, Abington Heights Civic League and St. Catherine of Siena Church, Moscow. A theater lover, Baldino also co-owns a professional theater company with her husband. Our Cabaret Productions puts on several performances a year, and working with her husband is a plus as he keeps her in check, she said.
“I found my partner who completely fits all the pieces,” she said.
While her path may not have been what she initially envisioned, Baldino takes lessons from every experience to use in the next. She feels blessed for the career and life she has and the people around her, who inspire her to be and do better. She always took a chance and never gave in to anyone else’s standard of what’s right.
“There is no set rule you have to do things by a certain timeline or on a certain path,” Baldino said. “You have to do what works for you and find what moves you. You can’t live by what other people do or say. You have to be true to yourself.”
Meet Rae D. Baldino
At home: Baldino lives in Clarks Summit with her husband, John, and their Yorkie, Liza Belle. She is the daughter of Ann Marie Decker and the late Dr. Peter G. Decker and has a brother, Peter. She has five nieces and nephews, Brady, 6; triplets, Caroline, Cooper and Meryn, 5; and Sawyer, 7 months. She also has a fur-nephew, a tabby cat named Sushi.
At work: Baldino is director of communications and development for UCP of NEPA and co-owner and production manager of Our Cabaret Productions.
Inspirations: Her parents; her professor-turned-friend, Melissa Sgroi; her colleagues; those who help end the stigma of mental health struggles, such as Lady Gaga, Demi Lovato, Ryan Reynolds, Emma Stone, Kristen Bell, Glenn Close, Dwayne Johnson and Prince Harry; anyone who stands up for what is right and does good for others, such as Ellen DeGeneres; and her husband
Aspirations: “I’m a WIP, (a) work in progress. So, for me, I think it’s about trying to keep learning and growing through life’s many lessons on how to be a better human being in this — what sometimes seems to be a little crazy — world,” she said. “The goal has, and will always be, to help others. Oh, and figuring out how to enjoy an exercise routine, because I really like my current wardrobe, and jeans only have so much give.”
Diversions: Strategic games and puzzles; volunteering; music, singing and dancing; weekend getaways to Philadelphia and New York City to see friends and a show; watching “Star Trek,” “Murdoch Mysteries,” “Law & Order,” “FaceOff” and any other sci-fi, murder mystery show; and kickboxing
Aversions: Negativity, inequality, discrimination, bullies, liars, bees and black liquorice
Quote: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi; “Keep your heels, head and standards high.”— Coco Chanel
Gia Mazur is an award-winning staff writer and beauty obsessive who joined The Times-Tribune’s Lifestyles department in 2015. She’s a product enthusiast who can’t live without an eyelash curler. A proud Virgo, Charlotte Tilbury Matte Revolution Lipstick in Pillow Talk is her go-to. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org; 570-348-9127; @gmazurTT