When talking to Barbara Benevento, one thing is abundantly clear: she would love to still be working for United Spinal Association. The recent recipient of United Spinal’s Employee of the Decade Award retired in June of 2014 after her husband had a serious health scare, but still fondly remembers her days with the company.
“I loved going to work… It was a very good place to work and still is,” she said.
Barbara began working for the Eastern Paralyzed Veterans Association (EPVA) in May of 1997 at the suggestion of her sister-in-law, who also worked for the company. Taking the job was a career change for her at the age of 57; her previous work was in printing, and her new job was in accounts payable. She would not let a lack of accounting experience stop her, however. Barbara says that the company had a great accounting system, which she learned quickly and easily.
“Once I learned it I wanted to learn more and more,” she added.
As the company grew, Barbara moved up to accounts receivable (while still doing accounts payable), and also worked with many different departments throughout her tenure with EPVA/United Spinal. After a bout with lung cancer, she contemplated retirement but decided against it, even though she was required to use oxygen at times. However, when her husband of 37 years, Jim, nearly died from complications from a previous surgery on June 4, 2014, she decided to retire for good.
“I didn’t go back after that. I couldn’t,” she said.
Barbara had 7 children from a previous marriage when she married Jim, telling him at the time that he had acquired “instant grandchildren.” She has 13 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren. Working at United Spinal’s long-time headquarters at the Bulova Corporate Center near Astoria Boulevard was a homecoming of sorts for Barbara, as she grew up on 23rd Street and Astoria Boulevard and remembers visiting the waterfalls of the Bulova Building with her parents and playing in the area.
“We used to ride our bikes up there… and here I end up working on Astoria Boulevard how many years later. It’s like my domain!” she added.
When asked to pick out a favorite moment from her tenure with United Spinal, Barbara could not choose just one. She cited the company’s boat rides, family picnics and Christmas and Halloween parties as memorable events, and was proud of her volunteer work with the Wheelchair Olympics when the event was held in New York.
She was very pleased to be honored with the Employee of the Decade award at United Spinal’s Employee Appreciation Day barbeque on July 17, 2015 at the company’s Fort Totten, NY facility.
“The surprise of getting that award was unbelievable,” she said.
James Weisman, United Spinal’s president and CEO added, “Barbara holds a special place in our heart. She has touched many lives here at United Spinal and supported our mission for so many years. It was great to have the opportunity to recognize her dedication.”
The event also allowed Barbara to see and talk to many of her friends and former co-workers, something she enjoyed greatly. She keeps up with many of them through Facebook and always enjoys keeping in touch with those she worked with.
“I’m very happy that I worked there, and I’m very happy that I still see them and talk to them,” Barbara said.
“I could go through every person with a fond memory.”