Adviser recognized for 25 years of dedicated support for students

The winner of the Invest in Others 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award is Lynn Chen-Zhang, COO of Zhang Financial, for inspiring students and donating both her time and money to Western Michigan University Foundation for more than 25 years.

“Lynn Chen-Zhang’s dedication to Western Michigan University is unmatched. She has given back to her alma mater so many different ways, as a leader, fundraiser and on-campus volunteer, to ensure all students have the opportunity to reach their goals and future potential,. Lynn has truly made a lasting impact on this community.,” said Megan McAuley, executive director of the Invest in Others Charitable Foundation.

The foundation announced Chen-Zhang as the category winner with a video presentation released on Friday. The live celebration of the group’s 14th annual awards in Boston was canceled earlier this year due to the pandemic. Winners of the other categories were released earlier this week.

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The two finalists in this category were Tracye Caughell of Caughell Rodgers Investments for Children’s Musical Theatre of Bartlesville Inc. and Hal Lynde of Raymond James Financial for Houston Furniture Bank.

The two finalists in this category were Tracye Caughell of Caughell Rodgers Investments for Children’s Musical Theatre of Bartlesville Inc. and Hal Lynde of Raymond James Financial for Houston Furniture Bank.

Each of the finalists will receive $15,000 for their charities and Chen-Zhang will receive $55,000 for the Western Michigan University Foundation.

Profiles written by Deborah Nason about the philanthropic efforts of Chen-Zhang, Caughell and Lynde follow.

Lynn Chen-Zhang

“This school knows you need a lot more than just a degree to succeed,” said Lynn Chen-Zhang, COO of Zhang Financial in Portage, Michigan, and board president of the Western Michigan University Foundation. WMU, a state university with 21,000 students, has an intentional focus on providing opportunities for the most frequently overlooked individuals, drawing statewide those who are the first in their families to attend college, grew up in foster care or have experienced homelessness, Chen-Zhang said.

“We take those kids and give them a transformational experience with specific, personalized support services, such as year-round housing, full-ride scholarships, life coaches and social workers,” she said. The foundation funds that support, as well as most scholarships, a wide range of career services, specialized innovation centers, the student center and more.

WMU provided a very supportive graduate school experience for Chen-Zhang, an immigrant from Shanghai. She has expressed her profound gratitude through 25 years of volunteer service to the foundation, which includes raising $139 million over the past three years. “Many large donors came from impoverished circumstances and they remember what their education meant for their lives. It turned their lives around,” she said.

Tracye Caughell

Musical theater is thriving in northeast Oklahoma, thanks to the Children’s Musical Theatre of Bartlesville, co-founded by Tracye Caughell, a partner in Caughell Rodgers Investments in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, whose population totals 35,000. Caughell came up with the idea in 1999 when she was seeking performing opportunities in the area for her talented daughters and found none. Floating the idea locally, she found widespread interest. “I was amazed to see how many people in the community had arts degrees. They enjoy volunteering,” she said.

The organization started out as an annual summer show featuring children ages 7 to 17 and a live orchestra. Two decades later, programming is year-round and includes a main stage production, summer camps, an after-school stage, a fall theater education program for all area fourth-graders (about 400 children a year), elementary and middle school plays, and college internships.

The group not only provides experience for kids interested in careers in theater and music, it also teaches them important life skills, such as teamwork, learning to take direction, applying creativity and imagination, and public speaking, Caughell said. “Theater impacts their sense of humanity, as kids learn to view life from different perspectives. It makes them more socially empathetic human beings.”

Hal Lynde

“Furniture is critical. It gives people dignity and normalcy. A table is unbelievably important — it gives kids a place to do homework and a family a place to gather,” said Hal Lynde, managing director of investments at Raymond James in Houston, and a volunteer with the Houston Furniture Bank since its founding in 1992. In a normal year, the nonprofit assists more than 1,300 families with 10,000 pieces of furniture — triple that during natural disasters — donated by furniture manufacturers, retailers and individuals. Recipients are primarily low-income workers recovering from crises, whether family- or weather-related.

Inspired by the concept of social businesses introduced by Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, the charity runs three businesses to financially support its mission of providing furniture to the needy. They are a resale shop for especially nice donations and refurbished furniture; a mattress recycling and refurbishment business; and a mattress manufacturing company.

The businesses, which fund about 75% of the charity’s operating budget, enable it to thrive. “Without them, the burnout rate, the stress would be too much,” Lynde said. “Although we still focus on raising money, it gives us more time to manage the businesses and continue to serve ever more people.”

Deborah Nason is a freelance writer.

The post Adviser recognized for 25 years of dedicated support for students appeared first on InvestmentNews.

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