Meet Jim Wellehan, 2015 Giraffe Award Winner

This is the sixth in a series of profiles on the 2015 Giraffe Award winners. Each Tuesday leading up to the Champions for Children Event, we will feature a profile on a 2015 Giraffe Award Winner and showcase how they “stick out their neck” for Maine children, youth and families. This week, we are pleased to introduce you to Jim Wellehan, co-owner and CEO of Lamey Wellehan.

Jim WellehanFor over a century, Lamey Wellehan has demonstrated that what is good for employees, is good for business. As the co-owner and CEO of the Maine-based, family-owned shoe company, Jim Wellehan carries on this important legacy by acting as an out-spoken advocate for family-friendly policies and fair wages for employees and leading by example. Wellehan knows that when Maine parents thrive, so can Maine children.

You can join the Maine Children’s Alliance in honoring Jim Wellehan with the 2015 Corporate Giraffe Award at the Champions for Children Event, featuring the Giraffe Awards on Tuesday, October 27, 2015.

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At Lamey Wellehan, no employee earns a wage less than $12 hourly and Wellehan has not taken a raise in over two decades. In an era where CEOs earn monstrous salaries in comparison to the lowest-paid employee, Wellehan aims to keep the gap much more reasonable.

“I want to make sure that my employees can work 40 hours, put food on their family’s table, live in a decent home, and still put some away.” – Jim Wellehan in the Portland Phoenix.

Many different factors play a role in determining a child’s chance at success and overall well-being. Parent employment and economic situation plays one of the most important roles. In Maine, 48,000 children live in poverty and 83,000 children have parents who lack secure employment. Secure parent employment means that children are able to receive the nutrients they need, have greater access to high quality early care and education, and receive health coverage. Numerous studies show a link between a loss in parental healthcare coverage and child healthcare coverage.

For many Mainers, however, Wellehan and his company represent much more than business success –  they represent community success. In the past couple of months, Wellehan has received a lot of positive attention for his refreshingly human approach towards business. With debates about minimum wage and controversial workplace policies garnering national attention, it is clear that Wellehan’s approach is different from most of his peers.

In an email to MCA, Wellehan shared a story from his youth that sheds light on the values that has defined him as a CEO, community leader and person.

About 15 years following World War II, Wellehan experienced an interaction that fundamentally altered his perspective. Growing up during and in the aftermath of WWII, Wellehan was horrified by the events that transpired during the Holocaust, but was comforted by the intentionally dark portrayal of Germans in movies. He thought that this was something that would never happen in his hometown of Lewiston.However, as he was returning home one day, he met some German kids for the first time and found they were not dissimilar from himself. In fact, he enjoyed them. It was in the moments after that meeting that his thinking changed forever:

“That was one of the most frightening thoughts I ever had, as I realized that everything their uncles or cousins or fathers had done, I was capable of.  So I decided to live my life so that that would never happen. Understanding what’s possible can help you do things, and not do things.” – Jim Wellehan

Jim Wellehan will be awarded the 2015 Corporate Giraffe Award for his commitment and action on raising the minimum wage and supporting family-friendly workplace policies on October 27, 2015 at the Champions for Children Event. Wellehan and Lamey Wellehan demonstrate the crucial role businesses and business leaders have in creating a thriving environment for Maine kids throughout the state. Maine children are the future of the state and if we are going to invest in kids, we need to start with their parents. If you look at Lamey Wellehan, Jim Wellehan is leading the way.

Learn more about Jim Wellehan in his profile on Read his latest op-ed in the Bangor Daily News on increasing the minimum wage with fellow CEO, Adam Lee. Reserve tickets today for the 2015 Champions for Children Event.


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