Bethany Lumbard McKinnon
(University of Washington)
The Full-Time Mom and Volunteer | 40 Under 40 Class of 2020
"It’s nice to be important, but it is important to be nice."
GET TO KNOW BETHANY
Dedicated, thoughtful and intelligent – that’s Bethany Lumbard McKinnon. Read on to learn all about this full-time mom and volunteer.
What inspired you to go into this line of work?
I read a magazine article in spring 2012, about the desperate, but mostly unknown need, for disposable diapers in our local communities. One in three families cannot provide adequate diapers to their children. I was heartbroken to learn that some children sit in a dirty diaper for 24 hours or that some mothers try to wash and reuse disposable diapers. At that time, I did not have my own children, but nine ladies in my new member class had a baby that year. Our class always celebrates the holidays with an ornament exchange. Building on our sisterhood’s love of philanthropy, I challenged our class to donate 1000 diapers instead that year. Word spread and the drive grew to include all my friends and family. I love this charity because even a $1 donation will change the life of a local child. Regardless of your own personal financial limitations, truly everyone can make a difference.
What challenge did you overcome to get where you are today?
My biggest obstacle is my continued struggle with chronic health problems. After I was forced to stop working in 2009, I felt like a burden on my family, and I was a little lost. It was very hard to accept that I could not continue my career or have a family. But I found new purpose in volunteering. I started with a few hours a month and built from there. My husband and I travel around the country to see the best doctors and work tirelessly to find treatments.
Did someone help you get to where you are today, like a mentor?
When my doctors informed us that I could no longer work, they also encouraged me to find a passion project to keep my spirits up. I immediately thought of the University of Washington and how I could support their scholarship programs. I met Jennifer Cohen, the university’s athletic director, and she helped me join an advisory/fundraising board. She introduced me to other Huskies who shared my same goals. She has helped and encouraged me personally for the past seven years. Jen is a shining example of integrity, hard work and generosity. She is a working mother who inspires me to reach for the stars.
What do you love most about your job?
The people. The purpose of volunteering is to help others, but I get so much more out of it meeting inspiring and fun-loving people. They often encourage me to try new, out-of-my-comfort-zone things. Because of them, I discover daily that I am stronger than I ever thought possible. The people are truly the heart of my service.
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Can't Live Without
Ear plugs. I can’t sleep without them otherwise!
Early Bird or Night Owl
Cats or Dogs
Mountains or Beach
Stripes or Polka Dots
Physical Book or Audiobook
Describe yourself in three words.
Dedicated, thoughtful and intelligent.
Your life philosophy is…
A lyric in Sugarland’s song “Something More.” It says, “Some believe in destiny, and some believe in fate. I believe that happiness is something we create. You best believe that I’m not gonna wait. ‘Cause there’s gotta be something more.”
What is the best piece of advice you received?
It’s nice to be important, but it is important to be nice.
If someone handed you an airline ticket to a place of your choosing, where would you go and why?
Positano, Italy. My parents and I went when I graduated high school, and it is the most beautiful place. The people, the food and the water, there isn’t anywhere like it. I set a goal for myself to return someday on my own, and I know I’ll achieve it someday.
What’s something you cannot live without?
Ear plugs. Even if I am alone in my house, I can’t sleep without them!
If you weren’t working in the industry that you are, what would you be doing instead?
After graduating from the University of Washington, I studied to become a pastry chef. My grandfather was a baker and I started in the kitchen when I was four. I can make wedding cakes and fancy confections, but my passion is cookies. Every holiday season I make 100 dozen cookies for my friends and family. It is uniquely fulfilling to express yourself through food.
How do you unwind or relax after a long day?
I love going to the park with my daughter. She loves the swings and her giggles are the perfect antidote for even the worst day.
The most rewarding aspect of your job is…
For volunteering, I am most proud that other students will have the same opportunity I did. Everyone deserves a college education but so many can’t afford it. I am so proud that my work plays a small role in students experiencing the same top-notch education that I received. For the diapers, increased awareness is the most rewarding aspect. Most people have no idea about the need for diapers in this country. They don’t know that families can use food stamps for cigarettes and alcohol, but not for diapers. I am most proud that my diaper drives have addressed some of these facts and generate donations throughout the country, not just in my drive.
If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it – metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions – what would it say and why?
“One in three families cannot provide diapers for their children. You can help!” This simple fact is true but mostly unknown. If we each make small contributions, we could end this problem and protect all children.
In the last five years, what new belief, behavior or habit has most improved your life?
I was always a late sleeper – sometimes I would sleep until 2 p.m. Since switching medications, I have become an early riser. I am more productive and positive, feel less stressed and have more energy. I enjoy my coffee and sometimes sunrises. This has been super helpful now that I have a daughter who wakes up bright and early!
When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?
I go into the kitchen and bake, sometimes for hours. It is my own form of meditation and I always have a clearer mindset when I am done. Unfortunately, I often leave a messy kitchen, but I feel better!
What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be money, time, energy, etc.)
I save as much as possible for my daughter to attend to college. I want her to have the same opportunities that I had, including joining a sorority if that’s something she wants. My parents paid for my education, and I will forever be grateful.
Name a confident woman of character who you look up to? Why her?
Mindy Kaling because she is true to herself, her goals and her daughter. She is proud of her work, body, choices and crafts. And she is ridiculously funny, a truly rare quality.