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2012 Most Influential Women Honoree: Lisa Slavens

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Lisa Slavens believes birthdays are a cause for celebration, so much so that in January, she launched a nonprofit aimed at making sure that area children’s birthdays are special – even when their families can’t afford it.

Slavens is the founder of Wish I May, a nonprofit organization that has helped nearly 130 disadvantaged children make birthday memories since its inception.

“A birthday is a singular celebration of a life, and for too many families in Springfield, there simply are not the resources to make even the smallest gift happen,” Slavens says.

Wish I May finds children to help through collaborations with other nonprofits. Completed request forms are faxed to Wish I May, and parties-in-bags are delivered to the partner agencies so parents can pick them up.

“Our bags are filled with everything to make a birthday happen, including cake mix, frosting, candles, birthday plates and napkins, age and gender appropriate gifts, and gift bags,” Slavens says, noting that a grant from Rotary Club of Springfield Southeast enabled the addition of two new books to each bag.

“With donated space, a volunteer staff and an amazingly generous community, we are able to use every resource and make birthdays happen,” she adds.

Working in the nonprofit sector is familiar territory for Slavens, the 2012 recipient of Queen City Sertoma’s Service to Mankind Award.

Prior to launching Wish I May, her professional roles included serving as executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Ozarks 2004–10. During her last year at BBBS, 1,200 children were assisted, up from 200 her first year, and agency assets grew to $1.4 million, with seven months’ worth of reserves on the balance sheet and no debt.

Her current community roles include serving on the board of Lost & Found, a local grief support nonprofit.

“Through my years working in the not-for-profit world, I have had the opportunity to work with men and women with exceptional heart, compassion, talent and skills,” Slavens says. “I believe leadership means giving more acknowledgement to others and surrounding yourself with the people you believe can do their jobs and do them well.”

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