Year-end can be a stressful, difficult, and even distracting time of year for many small businesses. In the spirit of making this time of year a bit brighter, Paychex awarded 18 small businesses $500 over the span its six-week Season of Small Business Wish List contest in the hopes of helping to make the winners’ year-end business wishes come true.
Of more than 10,000 entries, including 18 total weekly winners, one in particular stood out in making the most compelling request, emerging as the grand prize winner and earning an additional $1,000 towards making their wish come true.
“Wait a minute, I may need to sit down for this,” uttered Carolyn Zakem, HR coordinator at South Suburban Family Shelter (SSFS) and the individual responsible for entering the agency into the contest, over the phone. “If you’re going to tell me what I think you’re going to tell me, I may start crying.”
And then she choked up.
South Suburban Family Shelter (SSFS) began in 1980 as a result of a survey conducted by members of the National Council of Jewish Women – South Cook Section and graduate students from Governors State University to assess the need for services for victims of domestic violence in the southern suburbs of Chicago. SSFS is a domestic violence social service agency in Homewood, IL, that provides comprehensive services for victims of domestic violence and their families. In the three-plus decades since its founding, SSFS has gone from a small paid and volunteer staff serving 400 clients in the first year to 60 full- and part-time employees and interns providing services to thousands of clients.
While SSFS has experienced tremendous pride in growth, the organization is facing an unprecedented financial challenge due to an unresolved state budget that includes critical funding to help victims of domestic violence.
This is what led Carolyn to enter her organization into the Season of Small Business Wish List contest. While the organization’s current needs are boundless, it was a wish for three relatively small items that caught the attention of a panel of grand-prize judges that included Paychex CEO Martin Mucci, SCORE CEO Ken Yancey, and Washington Post small business columnist Gene Marks.
Carolyn’s entry read: To purchase a small chest freezer to store food donations, a TV/DVD player to enrich parenting classes at a transitional housing program, or a computer for a counseling group room so that clients have a safe place to access the internet.
These items may seem trivial to some, but according to Carolyn, “This is going to reach so many people and will fill a need not just now but ongoing. We would not be able to offer what we wished for without this money. People often offer food donations, and now we have a place to store them. Without this help, we would continue to teach classes for our transitional housing participants without adequate equipment (TV/DVD player).
“Given what we’re currently facing, this is not only going to be a financial boost, but a big one for morale too,” she added. “I can’t express how grateful we are for this wonderful gift.”