by Leona Dalavai Scott
Editor, AutoInc. Magazine
Lynn Donohue's "Call to Action" as the NACE Luncheon speaker on Friday, Nov. 4, focused on the importance of giving back to one's community.
In a presentation sponsored by Akzo Nobel, the former business owner and current community activist delivered an inspirational message to NACE attendees. She encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams with focus and determination despite the obstacles that may stand in their way.
Donohue knows something about obstacles. A junior high school drop out at 15 in the '70s, Donohue lived out of her car and barely made ends meet as a bartender.
Her life took a major turn when she enrolled in a three-month pre-apprenticeship course for women in construction and gained skills as a bricklayer. She graduated from the course but couldn't find work in the male-dominated industry of construction. It took her two years to actually find a job in the construction industry. Her first assignment involved helping to redo the cobblestone streets of her hometown of New Bedford, Mass.
Facing harassment and discrimination, Donohue forged ahead with her desire to be a female bricklayer and dreamed of one day owning a construction business. In 1981, Donohue was the first female apprentice to win the state masonry competition in Massachusetts. The award finally gave her recognition for her exemplary skills as a bricklayer. To this day, Donohue remains the only female apprentice to win the state masonry contest.
Slowly building up her self-confidence and experience, Donohue decided to start her own contracting business at the mere age of 27, realizing an earlier goal that she had set for herself. Not knowing anything about being an owner, she turned to various books on finance and management for knowledge and how-tos. She quickly won her first bid: to build a store for a major drugstore chain. Eventually, her business grew into a multi-million dollar company.
Donohue's remarkable journey of success inspired her to publish her autobiography, Brick by Brick. It was written with the help of her friend, and was so well received by audiences, that it became a finalist for the 2001 Ben Franklin Award for best autobiography. Brick by Brick is a compelling story of hope and change.
"It's not about instant change," Donohue said. "It's more of a story of step by step change," which is recounted in her painful yet triumphant battle to overcome abuse, adversity and personal trials.
Donohue's message of pursuing your goals no matter what the obstacle is a powerful one.
"So often we stop short of what we can accomplish," she told the audience.
As a result of her success story, Donohue wanted to encourage others, especially troubled youth, of which she was one decades earlier. In 2000, she began Brick by Brick, an organization dedicated to helping at risk kids overcome adverse circumstances. It is Donohue's way of giving back.
She ended her presentation with a "Call for Action."
"I want to challenge you to go out there and leave your mark," she said.