Amy Blansit keeps herself busy, and the community is the benefactor.
She runs a startup, teaches courses at Missouri State University and is among leaders spearheading poverty reduction efforts on the north side.
“I am constantly inspired, awestruck and frankly exhausted by what she has been able to accomplish,” says Crista Hogan, a friend and colleague of Blansit and executive director of the Springfield Metropolitan Bar Association. “She is constantly looking for opportunities and alliances, and she has inspired countless individuals and organizations to mobilize to reduce poverty in our community.
“Amy’s particular brand of influence is changing lives.”
To Blansit, her work is part of the necessary building blocks that are improving the community.
Through the Drew Lewis Foundation Inc. – named after her late husband – Blansit and her team provide resources and services through The Fairbanks, a converted elementary school in the Grant Beach neighborhood. There, she helps lead a movement called The Northwest Project with local universities and other stakeholders. She manages millions of dollars in grants for those efforts.
Blansit’s leadership motivated The Fairbank’s board to approve six housing purchases around the building to increase homeownership in the impoverished neighborhood. The Fairbanks building also is becoming a community hub.
“Where you live matters. Having pride in your community matters,” Blansit says. “That pride increases when you own your home, invest in your block and advocate to have safe places to patron in your neighborhood.”
She’s also taking the model to other communities, such as Aurora and Salem, where the Drew Lewis Foundation is launching programs to address poverty.
“Our research, curriculum and hub business model are available to any organization interested in developing neighborhood hubs for under-resourced neighbors,” she says.
Blansit’s drive to fix problems also led to the creation of her startup, Solely Jolie LLC. Her company developed a silicone mat that cleans makeup brushes without getting them wet – a need she identified in her own daily life. The Solely Jolie mat sells at local retail stores, including Ensley & Swann Boutique & Marketplace, as well as online and through a licensing deal with a Japanese company. Blansit says she’s making a profit on roughly $10,000 in annual sales, according to past Springfield Business Journal reporting. Solely Jolie also was a participant in the Efactory’s business accelerator program.
At MSU, Blansit is an instructor of kinesiology, helping to shape the minds of incoming health and wellness professionals.
Blansit sees her teaching as an extension of the nonprofit work, as she can train future leaders to be aware of red-flag issues happening in the community.
“Being a conduit to express the voice of those who often go unheard is empowering and humbling,” she says. “As faculty at Missouri State, I get to teach classes that help students see these injustices and potentially be part of the solution in their future.”
A pair of area medical colleges that received state grant funding in the fall are now investing the funds toward technology and new programs with the intent of attracting more students to the nursing profession.