“Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance, and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained.” -Marie Curie, physicist, chemist and first female Nobel Prize winner
These words from such an inspiring woman resonate with both the people we support and the team at Life’s WORC. In particular, they remind us of Life’s WORC Board of Directors Chair Lynne Koufakis. “I have a saying that was originally about my kids, but it carries over to everyone – especially Life’s WORC and its mission,” Lynne says. “I want them to be healthy, happy, safe, and reach their full potential, whatever that is.”
A mother of four adult children, Lynne has a deep understanding and passion for the people we support and their families, as two of her own sons have autism. However, that is not what led Lynne to Life’s WORC. Around nine years ago, Life’s WORC founder Vicki Schneps, whom Lynne knew personally, asked her to attend the gala to learn more about the needs of the agency. This led to a meeting with the Board of Directors, and at that point she was committed. “We always help people with special needs,” Lynne said of herself and her husband Michael. “If you can make a difference, why not?”
As the first parent of a child with special needs to join the Board of Directors, Lynne made a big impact from the start. “It’s easy for me to be involved because when you have children with special needs, you really want to help,” she says. “Sharing my knowledge as a parent offered the board a different perspective.”
Lynne quickly went from Board member, to Secretary, then Vice Chair, and this July will mark two years as Life’s WORC Board of Directors Chair – the first woman to ever hold this position. “It’s amazing how it started with Vicki 50 years ago and is led by women today,” she says of herself and Janet Koch, CEO. “It’s wonderful. Women are great innovators and bring so much to nonprofits in particular. I am proud to be a part of this at a time when women are coming into their own and finally being accepted as equals to men.”
As Board Chair, Lynne is tasked with a number of initiatives. Her commitment to fundraising and the generosity of her family has made a significant impact over the years. But it’s not just events where Lynne dedicates her time. During the height of the pandemic the Life’s WORC homes were put on lockdown as a safety precaution. To thank the direct support professionals for their commitment during such uncertain times, Lynne and Janet personally visited the homes, bringing cupcakes and a thank-you note to each. “I was blown away by how clean the homes were, how happy everyone was, and that nobody looked stressed or concerned,” Lynne recalls. “It was clear that the staff truly care for the people they support. It was a wonderful experience during a very tough time.”
As we slowly begin to emerge from the pandemic, we are simultaneously celebrating Life’s WORC’s 50thAnniversary. “It’s challenging, but we still have a lot of opportunity,” Lynne says. “We have to look back to see where we started with Vicki and her then-husband Murray Schneps, Geraldo Rivera, and the horror of what was going on at Willowbrook, and look at how far we’ve come. We have so much to be proud of, and with this anniversary we will celebrate our past, present, and hopes for the future.”
“Growth will be the future for all of the agencies out there,” she adds. “There is always the potential for more programs and future collaborations. My goal is to continue to make Life’s WORC the best it can be for the people we support.”
We would like to thank Lynne for her unending commitment and dedication to Life’s WORC, and for being an inspiration as a parent of children with special needs, a volunteer, a supporter, and a leader. We look forward to what the future holds.
In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Life’s WORC, we will be sharing the stories, people and events that have made Life’s WORC the organization it is today, along with our goals and vision for the future. Thank you for celebrating with us!