Like many women throughout the organization’s history, Ann Mays found herself at WomenVenture at a time when she was experiencing a significant change in her life. It was the early 1980s, and she had recently become a single mother. The former elementary school teacher needed to go back to work, but she couldn’t imagine returning to a classroom full of small children. A friend recommended a local career and employment counseling organization called CHART, which offered a program that could help Ann determine her future career path.
Ann completed the program and received the valuable skills she would need to re-enter the workforce. She was also given the opportunity to volunteer at CHART, filling in for the receptionist and then the bookkeeper, while they were out of the office. A short time later, Ann landed a full-time job at another nonprofit organization. But she would not soon forget her experience at CHART or how inspired she was by the extraordinary women that she met there.
When a client services position became available a year later, Ann officially joined the staff at CHART. During those days she conducted intake interviews with potential clients and helped them determine what programs would lead them to the job of their dreams. Her role evolved to registrar and then trainer, which gave her the opportunity to use her skills as an educator.
In 1989, CHART merged with the Women’s Economic Development Corporation (WEDCO) to form WomenVenture. Its vision remained the same—to help women of all ages, cultures, races and income levels achieve economic success. During that time, Ann was a trainer for a groundbreaking program called Project Blueprint that prepared women for jobs traditionally performed by men, in industries such as manufacturing and construction.
More than a decade later, as WomenVenture launched a plan to grow its volunteer base, Ann was charged with leading the effort. As the volunteer director, she recruited and trained a team of high-level volunteers that helped create curriculum and conduct career building and entrepreneurial training sessions. She successfully developed and integrated volunteer positions throughout all areas of the organization, from client services to resource development.
As the agency narrowed its vision to focus solely on small business development, Ann’s efforts shifted. She was responsible for engaging a team of volunteer subject matter experts who taught classes, delivered one-on-one technical assistance, and reviewed business plans and financials. In the past year alone, Ann managed more than 150 volunteers who donated nearly 3,800 hours of their time to help women in the Twin Cities start and grow small businesses.
This month, Ann retired after nearly three decades of service to the organization. A passionate advocate for women’s equality for many years, her life’s work will be honored at a special event in spring 2015. “It would be impossible to quantify the number of women who have been impacted by Ann’s work with the agency,” said WomenVenture Executive Director Elaine Wyatt. “She has touched the lives of many and she will be greatly missed.”