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City: Hot Springs
Category: Nonprofit Executive of the Year
After retiring from a 30-year career in banking, Lynn Blankenship started volunteering at Cooperative Christian Ministries & Clinic, then a free medical clinic. “After seeing the lives changed and getting to know some of the struggles of the individuals served, I couldn’t walk away,” she said.
She worked part time as the CFO, and when the director left suddenly she was asked to serve as interim director in 2011. Eight years later, Blankenship is the executive director of a nonprofit that has had to rethink its mission.
Creating that revised mission was one of her greatest challenges. The Affordable Care Act and the health insurance it provided eliminated much of CCMC’s reason for being, though the nonprofit helped more than 1,000 patients enroll in Arkansas’ expanded Medicaid program and taught them how to use their new benefits.
The nonprofit, however, came to the realization that having health insurance doesn’t eliminate poverty. So CCMC, which serves about 1,150 yearly, added services and a new goal, providing “a long-term solution to the instability that comes with 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.”
Blankenship’s greatest accomplishment at CCMC came in her management of a leadership change and resulting turmoil. “I learned very quickly that volunteers are not managed like employees would be,” she said. But she worked through the turmoil to lead an organization that is now both a great place to work and a great place to volunteer.
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.”