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When she was growing up in Great Brook Valley, Worcester’s largest public housing project, Damaris Dominguez didn’t know how she would go to college, but she knew she would go.
Her only source of funding was her mother, who had moved to Worcester from Puerto Rico and was on welfare.
“My mom wasn’t going to be able to afford to send me to college without scholarships or really getting into a lot of debt,” she said.
Dominguez studied hard, involved herself in plenty of extracurriculars, and “did all the things that I knew I needed to do in order to really achieve my goal of going to college.”
It was enough to get the attention of Joan Bok, the then-chairperson of New England Electric, who sponsored Dominguez’s education at Regis College in Weston. Bok helped connect her with a job at New England Electric, which later became National Grid, sparking Dominguez’s nearly 30-year career.
She climbed the ranks from a customer service representative to management before becoming manager of customer advocacy. In her current role, Dominguez oversees six advocates who work with low-income customers to help them navigate their utility needs.
Her team works with low-income individuals who might be struggling to pay a bill and connects them with a number of support organizations, everything from fuel assistance to food pantries to housing stability programs. Much of Dominguez’s work is done through fostering relationships with community organizations like city governments, senior centers, and health agencies to provide accessible assistance.
“The job that I’m currently doing is the most rewarding job I’ve had throughout my 29-year career,” Dominguez said. “There’s no feeling like the feeling you get when you have someone that you’re helping and, to me it might seem like something really small that I did for them, but for that particular person it’s making this huge difference.”
In the past year, Dominguez led her team in hosting four webinars, 19 financial savings events, and 48 outreach initiatives, which involve meeting with community leaders and members to get a sense of the greatest needs. She, as well as most of her team, is bilingual, allowing them to support a wide range of customers during these events, which are attended by hundreds of people, said Allan Leishman, National Grid’s U.S. director of customer contact and Dominguez’s director.
“She really doesn’t have ‘No’ in her vocabulary,” Leishman said. “A lot of these people don’t know what options they have. They’ve got really stressful personal situations … She is just so pleasant and personable. There’s always a willingness to help.”
Dominguez takes painstaking care to ensure her services are accessible to the groups who need them most, she said. A lot of this work is done through partnerships, setting up programs at nonprofits like Worcester’s Friendly House and Worcester Community Action Council.
When energy bills spiked last winter, Dominguez and her team were on the ground, working with residents to offer support in one-on-one interactions.
“They leave from working with you with this relief and this smile on their face,” Dominguez said. “There is nothing more rewarding than knowing that you were able to do that for them.”
Along with low-income customers, Dominguez leads support from some of the company’s largest commercial customers. She heads a team of analysts who provide guidance to customer service representatives for those clients.
Outside of work, she is the vice chair of the Massachusetts Good Neighbor Energy Fund, a nonprofit sponsored by local utility companies and administered by the Salvation Army. The fund provides monetary support for moderate-income customers who don’t qualify for state or federal assistance but still struggle to pay energy bills.
“Where you come from doesn't actually define you, and you shouldn't let it define you,” she said.
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