Businesswoman changes course, starts a charity

In July, Amy Lawler was back at her job as a manager in a managed-health-care company, balancing those duties with those of raising an infant and a 3-year-old.

Her perceptive husband, Aaron, thought something was amiss. So he asked her: "Are you living for your resume, or your eulogy?"

He told her their children wouldn't care how high she climbed the career ladder, if they felt she didn't spend enough time with them. Her job wasn't meeting either standard, Lawler said.

Instead, she founded a charity: The 3:11 Project.

Now those kids spend a lot of time with Mom, she said, laughing.

"They're running around in the car all day with me, picking up donations," she said.

The 3:11 Project takes its name from a Bible verse, Luke 3:11. "John answered, 'Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.'" (New International Version).

The group is not tied to a specific religion, although Lawler practices Christianity and is thinking about becoming a minister.

"Most (religions) have something similar," she said of the idea.

Lawler, 36, is studying for her master's degree in business administration, and has a bachelor's degree in psychology and religion, with an emphasis on gender issues. She is contemplating getting a doctorate in theology.

She began with a Facebook page in July and an application to the IRS for tax-free status. In August. the group collected school supplies, enough to outfit 28 children. She considered that a test run for a major project; Being a Secret Santa to disadvantaged children.

Lawler networked with businesspeople, mothers' clubs and other nonprofit organizations in the area, and ended up teaming with a manager from Mercy Housing's Batavia Apartments. The plan is to deliver bags of presents for 250 kids next month.

After the New Year's holiday, she will start forming an advisory board, and look for other ways to help. One possibility is working with a group that teaches schoolchildren about being kind and serving others.

She draws inspiration from her mom - a single mother who once worked as a coal miner in Pennsylvania to support her family.

"I want to do things I will be proud of, and my kids would be proud of," Lawler said.

If you would like to donate to the Secret Santa effort, you can email 3:11 project through its website,

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