As the saying goes, “talk is cheap” and “actions speak louder than words.” While some people like to tell everyone ELSE how THEY should do better, Lynn Blankenship simply puts her head down and does the work necessary to make the world better. She is busy making improvements rather than talking about it. And she doesn’t constantly post selfies on social media about the good work she does.
It seems my social media feed is filled with people giving advice to others on how they need to think and act and do better. I frankly wonder when some of them even have the time to actually do any work at all, much less do the hard work necessary to improve the world.
Lynn doesn’t post much on social media. She likes to follow her grandkids and family online, but when Lynn sees things that need changing, she actually puts “boots on the ground” as my Army friends like to say, and gets the changes done.
When you meet Lynn, whom I have known for over 40 years, you notice that she is quiet. She is friendly and engaging, but she tends to keep her opinions to herself unless asked. If you DO happen to ask, be prepared for an informed, well-reasoned, nuanced answer. Given with kindness, thoughtfulness, care, and a smile. Why? Because Lynn not only thinks and does her research before she forms an opinion, she often puts those thoughts into action to bring about the change she desires. She has hard-earned experience in dealing with the challenges of poverty. She has discovered – the hard way – what works and what doesn’t work so well. Not by reading. But by actually getting busy and helping others.
In the past 8 years, Lynn has affected significant change to lift people out of poverty in her adopted community of Hot Springs, Arkansas. In fact, she has brought about so much positive change that she was named Arkansas Non-profit Executive of the Year for 2019. She earned that award by spending 8 years as the Executive Director of Cooperative Christian Ministries & Clinic, helping to transform that organization from a free healthcare clinic to an organization that teaches people how they can lift themselves from poverty and improve their own lives.
CCMC was founded as a free healthcare clinic for people who could not afford healthcare insurance and didn’t have the money to pay directly for healthcare. When the Affordable Care Act was introduced, it reduced the need for free clinic resources, since Arkansan citizens could now sign up for free or reduced-cost healthcare through the federal government.
Lynn was a volunteer at the time. Eventually she became the CFO of CCMC and helped stablize their funding and increase their community involvement. CCMC receives no government funding, so all funds are given by benefactors, volunteers, and the local community.
After the sudden departure of the CCMC Executive Director, Lynn was chosen as interim Executive Director. She ended up staying and the interim title was removed. During her tenure, she completely transformed the organization.
“I learned very quickly that volunteers are not managed like employees would be,” she said. Lynn was so effective because she not only dedicated her time and resources to the cause, she was able to convince community and business leaders, as well as volunteers, to pitch in and help. She was able to multiply her efforts by bringing in doctors, business owners, city council, and many others to join forces and help her build a program to teach people mired in poverty how they can methodically work their way out of that poverty.
To that end, Blankenship said, “We provide advocacy and hope for the underserved and the vulnerable population in our community to find a way to self-sufficiency and success. And we do that by offering medical care for people who can’t afford it, case management to connect with other resources, and we have individual classes that we put people through so they can discover where they are and write their own future story.”
Lynn Blankenship describes her nonprofit’s credo: “Don’t judge without understanding where someone is,” because once you see a situation through someone else’s eyes, “that picture looks a lot different.”
Her management philosophy, Blankenship said, is similar to her life philosophy: “honesty first, trustworthiness, fairness and lead by example.”
Lynn recently retired from Cooperative Christian Ministries and moved back to her hometown of Oklahoma City with her husband to spend time with their grandchildren. She left the organization in good hands, and during her time helped hundreds of Hot Springs families get out of the rut of poverty, learn to start saving money, and improve their lives.
Lynn made a huge difference in a lot of lives. And never posted once on social media about her work. Not a single “selfie”. She just put her head down and went to work. And many, many people in Hot Springs are grateful for her time there. And now she and her husband David are getting involved in helping troubled youth in Oklahoma City. But don’t expect to see a Facebook selfie post of the work they are doing.