For Lynn Wilmarth, the road to success wasn’t always easy, but determination and hard work led her to a long-lasting career and gave her a work ethic that has carried on, helping her give back to the community that gave so much to her. Lynn, a single mother of two sons, struggled financially. She was determined to work at Xerox as a sales rep, hearing that one could make a lot of money if successful in that field. After being rejected twice and calling the manager every week for nearly nine months, she finally landed a job at the company in 1981.
Eventually, Lynn worked her way up to her dream job which was Vice President of Sales at Xerox. As a woman in business, Lynn says she quickly learned that no one cares what your circumstances may be. She wasn’t treated any differently just because she was a single working mom juggling way too many balls. To compete for promotions, she says, it was all about “performance, attitude, and confidence.” When asked what advice she would give to someone who’s looking to start their own business or just work their way up the corporate ladder, Lynn says that most importantly you need to have grit and determination, two characteristics that led Lynn to being the successful businesswoman she became.
After retiring from her job of 31 years, Lynn knew that she would at last have the time to really give back like she’d always wanted to. “I never had time to really ‘give back’ while I was working, but I never forgot the people that helped me when I was in need, whether it was the neighbors who watched my boys so I could go back to school and to work or the government programs like food stamps that helped me make ends meet,” she said. “I wanted to now be on the giving side rather than the receiving side.”
Lynn states that she’ll never forget what it was like to find herself a single mom with two little boys and no college education or job skills. “Work, college loans, government assistance, and friends all helped me to reach a corporate executive role, and now it’s my turn.” Lynn started off volunteering at Wilson Commencement Park, coaching young mothers in life skills and how to interview for jobs. All of these were skills that she had acquired from her years working at Xerox. She did various volunteer work and served on the boards of local and national charities until one day, her neighbor, Carrie Green, brought an idea to her attention.
Carrie told her that there were children in need, right in their own community. She spoke of how many children don’t have the opportunity to celebrate their birthdays and of how she wanted to do something to help. Lynn knew immediately that she wanted to join her. Lynn says that resulting nonprofit, Happy Birthday Cha Cha Cha, was the brainchild of Carrie Green. “Carrie is the epitome of a doer, not a dreamer,” she said. “What I mean by that is many people talk about things that need to be done to help our communities, but it is the rare person who acts and operationalizes the idea.”
Lynn knew that she wanted to help bring Carrie’s vision to reality to bring joy to kids in need on their birthdays, saying that the idea was “local, personal, and with immediate results.”
They decided to start with one school in the Rochester City School District, helping 129 children in their first year. Today, HBCCC is in eight different schools in the Rochester City School District, and it is able to fund 1,300 children. For Lynn, Happy Birthday Cha Cha Cha has had an even greater impact than she could have imagined. She says that the benefits extend both ways: to the children that they’re providing for, but also to the communities that volunteer. Everyone seems to gain something through this experience of helping others. Lynn says that they would eventually love to see franchises of their business model and have chapters in other cities, which no doubt will happen with these determined women behind it.
Happy Birthday Cha Cha Cha provides kids in need with a bag stuffed full of necessities like soaps, toothbrushes, healthy foods, socks, and underwear. The kids also receive two gift-wrapped toys and Happy Birthday Oreos.
The value of each bag is $50.00, and these items are 100% funded through donations!
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