Serving Primavera helps employee through her own life challenges

Debbie Benge knows her Primavera Foundation colleagues count on her to get paid accurately and on time. She takes personal responsibility to avoid slip-ups that could cause them hardship.

But Debbie, the organization’s payroll administrator, says doing her job well gives her something else. It provides solace from some of the hardships she herself has recently faced: the death of a spouse, a cancer diagnosis, chronic pain.

“When I am at work, I do not focus so much on my health issues and pain. I am just a regular person doing regular things,” Debbie said. “I get to interact with my co-workers and just talk about regular life issues.”

Debbie says that distraction is priceless to her, even though it’s hard to have people ask her how she’s doing. She longs to have a different answer, but says she appreciates how much her co-workers care.

Debbie was initially hired to do data entry for Primavera in 2002 and within a few months, her numbers acumen was noticed. She was soon transferred to a job in accounts payable.

Before working at Primavera, Debbie worked for 11 years doing data entry, accounts payable and payroll with Project PPEP (Portable, Practical Educational Preparation), an organization similar to Primavera but with a rural focus.

It’s been wonderful seeing Primavera grow “by leaps and bounds” since she started 20 years ago, Debbie said.

“I am very blessed to be working at such a wonderful place like Primavera,” she said. “We are more than co-workers, we are a family that really cares for each other.” Debbie does payroll for roughly 140 employees, including Primavera Works employees, who are paid once a week, and permanent staffers, paid every two weeks.

Debbie says she especially wants to avoid delays in compensating employees with Primavera Works, the organization’s long-standing workforce development program. Those participants are trying to change their lives, Debbie said, and some are working for the first time in ages.

“I understand living hand-to-mouth,” Debbie said, explaining she once had to piece together her budget as a single mother of four. “I had recently been divorced, and I had to supplement child support.”

When Debbie’s husband, Art, died recently, she still came in to work within a couple of days of his passing.

“We just recently changed to a new payroll software,” she said. “My heart was hurting and my brain was running a bit slow, but I was still able to get it processed, thanks to other staff stepping up and assisting me.”

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