212 Baldwin Avenue
PO BOX 420700
Pontiac, Michigan 48342
As executive director of the Baldwin Center in Pontiac, Lisa Machesky sees daily the growing divide between rich and poor. She envisions a future where every child has an equal chance for success, and Baldwin Center’s enrichment and education programs for kids and basic needs assistance for families mean Pontiac children have a better footing for the future.
Michigan Nighlight: What does being a leader mean to you?
Baldwin Center Executive Director Lisa Wachesky
: Being a leader first and foremost means being responsible. People have given me their time, treasure and talents in the hopes that we can build something better together. As a leader I am responsible to use those resources in the best way possible. I hold that trust close to my heart and am grateful for the opportunity to do something great.
Secondly, being a leader means that I need to be focused on the future so that I can encourage, inspire and sometimes prod
People need to connect with one another. We have built a society where you can ignore the poor. We have significant economic isolation.
those around me to keep moving down the path we have been given to follow.
What is your dream for kids?
I want to live in a society where each child has an equal chance of success. Too often it doesn’t matter how hard you work or how much you want to learn; your opportunities are dependent on where your parents live and what community they can afford. I came to Baldwin to make sure the kids of Pontiac can have opportunities like the ones my children have.
What is one concrete thing that could be done to improve the environment for social sector work in Michigan?
People need to connect with one another. We have built a society where you can ignore the poor. We have significant economic isolation. Those with more means do not have any understanding of the struggles of those on bottom of the economic ladder and those struggling do not have any understanding about what it takes to climb the ladder of success. Communities used to have rich and poor families. They learned from each other. Now there are communities for the affluent and communities for the poor. People need to take opportunities to volunteer so that bridges and connections can be made.
How do you know you’re making progress?
Somedays you don’t. It is those glimpses of something really good that I treasure. For instance, we just started a youth employment program and I was there when we passed out the first paychecks. Those looks of pride and accomplishments in those kid’s faces will stay with me for a long time.
...I learn an awful lot from screwing things up and am constantly reflecting about what went well and what did not. I have come to value that culture of learning as one of the keys to success.
I also believe that stories and glimpses are not enough. We must find ways to hold ourselves accountable for moving the needle. We are continually asking ourselves did we make a difference and looking for hard data to support that yes. Yes we did make a difference and this is why I know.
What are you most proud of?
I am most proud of helping to create a culture where people from all walks of life can come together to make the world a better place. I am jazzed when I can find a resource that someone needs at the right time. I often say that we serve two populations -- those with economic need but also those with a need to give.
Reflecting on your career, what would you say was your greatest professional learning experience?
Because I strive to learn each and every day it is hard to pinpoint one learning experience. I do know I learn an awful lot from screwing things up and am constantly reflecting about what went well and what did not. I have come to value that culture of learning as one of the keys to success.
However, if you are going to pin me down, I will say that I am grateful for obtaining my MBA. Many nonprofits do not run their operation as a business, and first and foremost a nonprofit is a business. If the basic business operations are not cared for, you cannot continue to do the most important work.