When Katherine Quinn left the international banking industry to become the founder and executive director of in 1996, she didn’t dream of winning prestigious business awards. She simply wanted to provide support and hope to people affected by breast and ovarian cancer.
Quinn said her career shift was set into motion when she participated in a breast and ovarian cancer charity walk at FDR Park in Yorktown Heights and met Nancy Heller and Richard Adamski.
“Nancy was a breast cancer survivor and Richard’s wife had died of breast cancer," she said. "A small group of us gathered and brainstormed for several months. With the support of Ellen Silverstone from SHARE in New York City, we created Support Connection in 1996."
The rest is history.
In recognition of the organization’s economic impact on Yorktown and for providing services that are not provided by any other organization in the Hudson Valley, the Yorktown Chamber of Commerce has named Support Connection, .
“During out most recent walk, 10,000 people attended and 800 participated,” Quinn said. "I’m thrilled that the Chamber recognizes that this organization brings visibility and vitality to Yorktown."
We asked Quinn to share her secrets to making an impact and remaining successful in a tough economy.
Patch: What inspired you to launch Support Connection?
Katherine Quinn: When a friend was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1990, she reached out to me to see if I could help her find a support group in Northern Westchester. I felt terrible when I had to tell her no services existed in Yorktown or the surrounding area. To this day, I work to pay tribute to the memory of my girlfriend Isabel who died shortly after we opened our doors.
Patch: What motivated you to make such a big career switch from corporate executive to non-profit founding director?
KQ: While I greatly enjoyed my career in International Banking, upon being downsized I took a hard look at how I wanted to spend my time and where I wanted to put my energy.
Since I was 5 years old, I volunteered with my dear dad, Bud Love, who believed in helping others. I would follow him around as he sold monthly raffle tickets for my church. I continued to volunteer, and no matter what I got involved with, I was always impressed by how much could be accomplished when people had a goal and passion and worked together. That is the atmosphere at Support Connection and why I have kept coming every day for the last 15 years.
Patch: What is your definition of success?
KQ: To me, success is looking at what is important in your life, doing the best to enjoy every day in some way, and accepting that life is not perfect. I like to look at success as a healthy mix of personal and work life.
Patch: How have you remained successful in a tough economy?
KQ: We never strayed from our mission or tried to change who we are. That was critical in a tough economy.
My donors remained loyal. It was the $5, $10, $25 donations from many people and our loyal event sponsors that kept us alive. I am forever grateful to those who work with and support our mission.
Patch: What is the hardest thing about running a not for profit business?
KQ: Often times, people do not view a not for profit organization as a business. In order to fulfill the mission, a not for profit organization must be managed very well.
Running a not for profit business is not for the weak. You have to be willing to work hard, long hours, accept rejection from potential donors, and stay focused. The payback is making a difference in someone’s life. That is a huge payback.
Patch: What is the most important thing a person needs to be successful?
KQ: In my lifetime, I have found that it is critical to look at yourself, be true to what is important to you, don’t make apologies for being who you are. Dream and look towards fulfilling even a part of your dream. Try to surround yourself with positive people. Very importantly, I think it is critical to keep a sense of humor and be someone your family and other people want to be around.
Patch: If you could give advice to someone starting a new career, what would you tell them?
KQ: My dear mom, Mary Love, once said to someone who was complaining about having a hard time finding his ideal job, “Get up and do something. A job doesn’t have to be perfect. Sitting around waiting will get you nowhere but on the couch.”
I laughed but there was much truth in that. If you are interested in a career, the best way to get a foot in the door is to volunteer or become an intern. Also, don’t be shy about telling everyone you know that you are looking. Very importantly, don’t be afraid to get your foot in the door at the lowest level. You can work your way up.
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