The winner of the Invest in Others 2020 Catalyst Award is Lynette Atchley, CEO and managing director of CPA Financial Advisors Inc., for helping to create Rebirth Homes, which combats human trafficking through education and provides a holistic residential healing program for survivors.
“Lynette Atchley identified an unmet need in her community and did something about it, working with the founder of Rebirth Homes to help get the organization off the ground and flourish. Through her ongoing leadership and service to Rebirth Homes, Lynette has served as a catalyst for change for countless survivors of human trafficking,” said Megan McAuley, executive director of the Invest in Others Charitable Foundation.
The foundation announced Atchley as the winner with a video presentation released on Sept. 21. 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 will be released similarly later in the week.
Each of the finalists will receive $15,000 to go to their charities and Atchley will receive $45,000 for Rebirth Homes.
Profiles written by Deborah Nason about the philanthropic efforts of Atchley, Coren and Pisani follow.
Lynette Atchley, CEO of CPA Financial Advisors Inc. in Riverside, California, was horrified to learn eight years ago that her city was a gang-related hot spot for sex trafficking. She responded immediately by helping create Rebirth Homes, a program that provides local residential assistance for women in crisis and transitional services for female survivors. More than 300 volunteers have assisted over the years, including fundraisers, professional-level counselors, and mentors who offer guidance and friendship. The nonprofit has served more than 50 women since inception.
Riverside has become a hub for gangs in part because it contains the major intersection of I-15 going north from Mexico and I-10 going across the U.S. — convenient routes for moving women quickly and efficiently. “It’s a very lucrative business for them — they can sell a woman over and over, but they can only sell a gun once,” Atchley said.
The nonprofit’s first step was spreading awareness of the problem by reaching out to the community and law enforcement to deliver the stark message that sex trafficking equals human slavery. “Our goal is to reach a million women around the world — and for our graduates to work in the program to make it self-sustaining,” Atchley said.
Matt Pisani, a financial representative with Lincoln Investment, founded his nonprofit, Clean Slate Living, in 2012 to deliver an empowering message to teens: “It’s never too late to make a new start — your past doesn’t have to define your future.”
These are words he needed to hear in his own teen years, when the searing pain of childhood bullying drove him to alcohol and drug addictions that lasted through college, grad school and his previous career as a rap singer. Hiding his addiction from his loving parents, it took him more than 10 years to hit bottom and accept their help. Pisani’s turnaround was so transformational, he decided to share his story with teens to empower them to rewrite their internal scripts. He connects with them through rap music and motivational stories and videos, and provides tools such as exit strategies from peer pressure and ways to create boundaries to halt toxic communications and relationships.
He and his team give about 30 high school presentations a year across the country, reaching about 25,000 kids. “Teenagers are extremely stressed out due to social media peer pressure,” Pisani said. “Also, a lot of kids are parenting themselves and battling with their self-worth.”
“Little League is a critical part of the fabric of our community,” said Seth Coren, private wealth adviser with Morgan Stanley Private Wealth in Manhattan. Since 2012, he has served as a volunteer, and since 2015 as a board member, for Peter Stuyvesant Little League Inc., which primarily serves a 20-block neighborhood on Manhattan’s East Side.
The league includes about 750 children, ages 5 to 16, on 65 teams, seven days a week, with the help of about 300 parent volunteers. There are girls’ and boys’ teams within the softball and baseball divisions. The so-called Challenger division provides adaptive baseball for special needs players, who are partnered up with players from the other divisions. Coren has been especially busy lately securing business sponsorships for all 65 teams, raising citywide awareness of the Challenger program, doubling the number of girls playing softball, contracting with professional coaches to supplement the volunteer coaches, and coaching and leading a team to a district championship.
“It’s completely of, by and for the community. Kids are building teamwork and camaraderie and it brings out everyone in the neighborhood — people barbecue and hang out,” he said. “It gives a suburban experience to a city neighborhood.”
Deborah Nason is a freelance writer.
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