Eva Stevens

Executive vice president of asset management at United Properties

Eva Stevens, 57, is not only a top executive at Bloomington-based United Properties, she's also a 24-year cancer survivor who is leading efforts among the local commercial real estate community to build Gilda's Club Twin Cities.

Gilda's Club offers free support for people living with cancer, along with their families and friends. It was named in memory of comedian Gilda Radner, who died from ovarian cancer in 1989 at age 42. There are 57 Gilda's "clubhouses" nationally. Stevens was diagnosed with breast cancer at 33, shortly after her mother was diagnosed.

Armed with 30 years of real estate expertise and connections and a personal passion for the project, Stevens is chairwoman of the clubhouse committee for Gilda's Club Twin Cities. She assembled a team of industry professionals who contributed pro bono services, including title, financing, architecture and design. Gilda's Club Twin Cities acquired a 7,300-square-foot building in Minnetonka that's being retrofitted into a clubhouse and slated to open in 2013. Many local vendors are donating construction materials. The organization also launched a capital campaign, raising $2 million of the $3.8 million goal.

QHow shocking was it to be diagnosed so young?

AI was 33 and on top of the world. ... My doctor wanted to get a baseline mammogram (because of her mother's diagnosis), but 24 hours later, he called and said, 'We've got a cancer.' So on Dec. 23, 1988, I had surgery and a second surgery in January, 36 radiation treatments and chemotherapy.

QAre there any other facilities like this here?

ANo. What's astonishing is back in 1988 when I needed this for my family and myself it wasn't here, and 24 years later it's not here. We have a medical resource council just waiting for us to open so they can refer their patients to us, because these types of psycho-social services are not provided inside the hard walls of medical institutions treating cancer.

QYour colleague Steve Brown led the building search?

AYes. Over 100 buildings later, we found 10560 Wayzata Boulevard. It's a single-story office building in a setting that feels a little more residential. ... When we drove in, there were three deer standing in the driveway. We all looked at each other and said, 'I think we found our home.' Steve donated his time and commission.

QWhat's been the biggest learning experience?

AThe not-for-profit world sometimes moves at a different pace than the for-profit world. Everyone who knows me knows I'm not a patient person. When I pull up to the table, I say, 'Let's go!'

Liz Wolf is a freelance writer in Eagan. She can be reached at wolfliz99@aol.com.