As director of the Lift A Life Foundation, Ashley Butler has a unique perspective on the challenges faced by the community. The Lift A Life organization tackles four critical areas of need as part of a larger effort to help alleviate financial, physical, emotional and educational burdens that prevent people from achieving stability in their lives and unleashing their true potential. Targeting hunger, education, juvenile diabetes and youth/family issues, the foundation is making an impact on individual lives as well as the entire community. I spoke with Ashley to learn more about how Lift A Life works and what drives her passion to help others.
LORI KOMMOR: Tell me about the Lift A Life Foundation.
ASHLEY BUTLER: The Foundation was originally a charitable trust founded 11 years ago by my parents, David and Wendy Novak. About three or four years ago, it evolved into a more formalized grant funding organization, with a strategic focus on targeting specific areas of need for nonprofit organizations in the area who are doing incredible work.
KOMMOR: What are some examples of the work and projects that are funded through Lift A Life?
BUTLER: We partner with the Metro United Way to help fund their Early Childhood Excellence Academy program located in 13 early childhood learning centers throughout Louisville. They work with teachers who go through the program to prepare preschool children so they are ready to learn the minute they step into kindergarten. There are currently 180 teachers in the program improving skills and their classrooms. We also have a long history with Dare to Care, providing one million meals to feed the hungry, and just recently we gifted Kosair Children’s Hospital $5 million to open a diabetes center for children. We are also very involved with YMCA Safe Place, Maryhurst and Portland Neighborhood House, just to name a few others.
KOMMOR: Obviously, there are many organizations that want to “partner” with you. What are the criteria and eligibility requirements?
BUTLER: Well first, the applicants must fit into the four target categories of providing services that fit our mission, fighting hunger, promoting education, supporting juvenile diabetes research or dealing with youth and family issues. If they do, then we ask them to submit a simple “Interest Form” providing general information about their background, programs and projects. From there we identify those that best suit our mission and request a more formalized proposal. It’s a streamlined process that enables us to focus on our mission and help potential partners clearly state their own goals and objectives so that we may be able to work with them.
KOMMOR: I’m sure you have many proud moments when you work with these organizations and projects. Is there one in particular that stands out?
BUTLER: Believe it or not, they all bring me great satisfaction, just witnessing the positive impact on people’s lives and the overall impact on the community. I do have to say though that attending the Early Childhood Excellence Academy graduation ceremonies is incredibly inspiring. I love witnessing the great work Metro United Way does with the program and, especially, the teachers themselves, who work so hard, are so selfless and incredibly proud. These teachers work hard to progress through this program, eventually achieving the level of Master. When they do, not only have they improved themselves, but they’ve opened a new window of opportunities for their students and have given them a real love of learning that will help them achieve success in life.