Featured business person: Mary Shannon

Mary Shannon

Chief development officer, Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters

Shannon need look no further than her own life to see the difference positive role models can make.

Born in South Korea, she was adopted out of poverty at the age of 13 by Richard and Myrna Long of Wichita.

“I was one of those at-risk kids,” Shannon said. “They gave me an opportunity when I didn’t have one. That’s so much of what Big Brothers Big Sisters does.”

Shannon, who started work at the nonprofit this week, said her job has three aspects – fundraising, recruiting adult volunteers known as “Bigs,” and marketing the organization.

Kansas Big Brothers Big Sisters has about 6,000 boys and girls statewide matched with adult mentors, including 1,200 in Sedgwick County. It also has 4,000 children on a waiting list.

Although mentors aren’t paid, Shannon said the organization needs money for staff members to recruit, train and work with them.

“Any time you’re involving adults in the life of a child, there’s a lot of training involved,” she said. “Then there’s follow-up by the caseworkers, not only with the child but with the family that’s impacted. It’s a comprehensive mentoring program.”

Shannon, who earned a degree in business administration and economics from Trinity College (now Trinity International University) in Deerfield, Ill., started her career in human resources. Since returning to Wichita in the 1990s, she has worked for the Arthritis Foundation, Newman University and Envision.

Shannon said her father, who owned the Beard’s Phillips 66 station on Central, often helped people in need, while her mother volunteered with several churches. Shannon’s brother and sister-in-law are Wichita police officers. Her sister is a social worker in Denver.

Shannon has a daughter, Ashley, 16, and a son, Jordan, 15.

Outside work, she said, “I love to run and hike, and I run and hike so that I can eat whatever I want. Because I love to cook. We spend a lot of time cooking together as a family.”

Joe Stumpe