You may know Danene Sorace as a member of Lancaster City Council, where she has championed progressive ordinances and policies; or as a neighbor or a School District of Lancaster parent; or because of her involvement in countless other community efforts. But you don’t really know Danene until you talk to her about the things that she cares about most: family and community life, social and economic justice, education and opportunity, and optimism about the future – especially the future of Lancaster City.
Danene spent part of her growing up years in Lancaster County and knows first hand how lost jobs and medical emergencies can suddenly result in a family’s financial ruin. In the 3rd grade, she watched as most of her family’s belongings were sold at an auction. But that auction didn't bring enough to support her family. Food stamps, Medicaid, a large vegetable garden and the generosity of friends and neighbors helped sustain the Sorace family. Danene will tell you that getting invited to eat at a friend’s house meant there would be more food at home for the next day. It wasn’t a happy time.
In sixth grade, the family moved to rural Juniata County to start over. Her parents sold their only asset – their home – and bought some land. While living in a pop-up camper, they set about clearing land and building a home. Quickly, neighbors joined in the effort, including several Amish families who remain life long friends. The house was under roof and enclosed by winter, though largely unfinished. By sixth grade, Danene learned how to be part of a community that takes care of one another and to believe in the possibility of new beginnings.
Danene graduated from Juniata High School in 1990 and Albright College in 1994 – all along holding down part-time jobs. She was the first in her family to earn a Bachelor’s Degree and went on to receive her Master’s in Public Policy from the Bloustein School at Rutgers University while working full-time.
While at Albright College, Danene met her husband of almost twenty years, Christian Recknagel. The couple was married at the Lancaster Theological Seminary in 1998. After a 9-year stint living in Christian’s home state of New Jersey they moved back to Lancaster to raise their daughter Aurelia (Lia) and be near family. During their time in New Jersey, Danene directed a national center at Rutgers University with a staff of 10 and budget of $1.2M.
Today, Lia is 5th grader at Fulton Elementary School; Christian works for Benchmark Construction; and Danene is self-employed – working with a national foundation and several other non-profits to advance health and education. With more than twenty years of non-profit and philanthropy experience, she has a proven record of developing and implementing strategies to advance public/private partnerships – including Lancaster City’s nationally recognized Green Infrastructure program. As a member of City Council, Danene chairs the Finance Committee and provides oversight of the City’s $100M annual budget.
Danene's mom Bonnie, and sister Renee, reside in Lancaster County. Her father, Aurelio, passed away in 1999. He ended his career as an instructional aide at a vocational technical school and is dearly missed. She is grateful for the experiences that have shaped her life and especially to her parents and family, and for their love and steadfast belief that the best is yet to be.