The Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce and Women in Business are excited to honor Abby Johnson of the YWCA Metropolitan Chicago as a 2022 Woman of the Quarter.
Woman of the Quarter Q&A
Q: Describe your business and what you do.
In an effort to advance our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women, YWCA Metropolitan Chicago has reimagined the business of human services. We leverage the passion and expertise of a community of changemakers who share our desire to address gender and racial inequalities. Recognizing that the needs of women and families are significant and complex, we cultivate innovation and attract new sources of capital to strengthen our business and diverse set of services. And we believe mutually beneficial, value-driven, cross-sector collaboration is the key to creating an inclusive marketplace where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. Our 21st century, comprehensive solutions are delivered across a 1,000 square mile footprint of metro Chicago and are helping women and families achieve transformational personal and financial empowerment. It’s social impact, reimagined!
I work under the Project HELP Program accredited by the Naperville Exchange Club, Project HELP’s biggest annual sponsor. Together we work to prevent child abuse through our Parent Education Workshops and one-on-one in-home parent mentoring services. We collaborate with the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce businesses and nonprofit members to empower the families in our community to thrive for generations to come.
Q: What do you love most about your work?
I have really attached myself to our organizational values over the past 4 years with YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. We approach our work with wonder, compassion and joy, and embrace uncertainty. We value the unique talents and contributions of all people and foster an environment that unleashes individuals’ purposes and potential. With a sense of urgency, we commit to intentional evolution through agility, innovation, and a growth mindset. We collaborate to develop meaningful, value-driven partnerships that benefit multiple stakeholders. We co-create new models that maximize opportunities to disrupt the marketplace so that we can resolve the significant challenges facing our society.
Collectively we honor our internal definition of our human-centered approach, as celebrating our whole selves on a journey to become our best selves. We demonstrate this by recognizing that diversity makes us stronger; by creating safety, accountability, and relationships that unleash purpose and potential while fostering growth; and by acknowledging our authentic selves in our collective successes, adversities, growth, and experiences.
The pandemic has been challenging for all of us. For the first time our staff and the families we serve collectively experienced many levels of trauma, and it was our goal to bring our whole selves to our work and support our staff and community together. This year our annual breakfast will encourage and address that traumatic experience, with the ever-inspirational Tim Grove, featured with Oprah on 60-minutes. Please consider coming out to Abbington Distinctive Banquets for breakfast at 7:30 am on May 18th to learn more about the work we love so much. (https://bit.ly/2022ProjectHelpBreakfast)
Q: What led you down your career path?
I remember sitting at the kitchen table of my best friend’s home in high school when someone asked what I was going to do next with my life. I only knew that I wanted to do something that mattered. After 2 years of working with my husband, Saul Flores, in an orphanage in Mexico, there was the International Rotary Club. I gained firsthand witness to extreme child abuse and neglect. We worked with children with years of physical and mental abuse, with scars that covered their entire bodies. Children and babies would need years of support to break the cycle of neglect and help them thrive in the future. When we returned to the United States, we knew we wanted to continue on this career path. I found a job with Northern Illinois Food Bank in Geneva, Illinois where I learned under the best and began to integrate myself into the beautiful community we have in Kane and DuPage counties of people supporting their neighbors.
In 2018 I met Peggy McGuire, Director of Child and Family Development with Project HELP, and knew I had found my home. She is my mentor, advisor, and the first person I call when I need support. She has been serving the Naperville community for many years and has taught me everything I know.
Q: What advice do you have for other women in business?
Never stop learning, growing, and expanding your ability to strengthen communities through your unique skills and experiences. Surround yourself with leaders who think differently and come from backgrounds different than your own. The best solution can only be found through diversity and inclusion. Find joy in the daily journey to meet your goals – each goal met is just a step towards the next adventure.
Q: Name someone in your life who inspires you and tell us why.
My mother, Robin Johnson, was the first woman in our family to graduate with a college degree. She has spent every moment of her life strengthening and inspiring others. In March of 2020, when the world fell apart and we had 2 foster children under the age of 2 at home, she picked up her entire life and moved here to support us. She found a home at World Relief and is helping local refugees find a place to call home each day.
Q: What other passions and hobbies do you have?
I truly love learning and discovering the beautiful world around me. I love my family and my daughter Sydney who came into my family at just 3 months old in March of 2020.
Q: Aside from the Chamber, how do you stay connected within the Naperville community?
To make it simple, I am at every community event and meeting I can cram into my calendar, networking and collaborating with businesses and nonprofits alike. It is only together that we can begin to create the community we want to see for our children. I can’t wait to connect with you: https://www.linkedin.com/in/abbylynnjohnson/
Woman of the Quarter Bio
Abby Johnson is a mother, foster parent, and community-driven team leader, with a background in the development of innovative and resourceful programs. I am a skilled communicator in Spanish and English, with 10 years of national and international experience in the nonprofit sector. I specialize in volunteerism and strategic program development. I am dedicated to the collaboration of a community of resources for a global influence, and I am currently pursuing a degree in Economics and Business Administration from Harvard University Extension School.
Connect with Abby at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/abbylynnjohnson/