Luck shines on hard-working mom after work at Walla Walla YMCA

For her work at the Y, Walla Walla native Wendi Griffith got a little bonus, one that paid big dividends.

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WALLA WALLA -- Hard work can go a long way in making a dream come true.

A lucky raffle ticket never hurts, either.

And $20,000? Pure frosting.

Wendi Griffith has long known that the only way she was going to get where she was headed was to take every possible opportunity that came along to earn a little extra income.

Born and raised in Walla Walla, the 50-year-old single mom often makes the trek back home from where she now lives in Hermiston to grab an extra job for a day or two.

Although she works 40 hours a week at a financial institution, the pay is modest. "I work on a bonus basis, I live and die on what agents produce," she said. "I have a base salary that's pretty 'base.'"

To supplement, Griffith "just set her mind" on getting certified to teach yoga, she said. "I've done yoga for years. I wanted to teach to have a steady second income. I figure it's better than going out and cocktailing."

Yoga seems a good a way to provide her 13-year-old son, Kevin, with the things kids need, like a backpack for school and new shoes every fall.

Certification costs money, so she picks up any odd job she can, such as working at Macon Brothers weekend auctions. When the Y's facility director, Rachelle Flanik, called her friend about helping with the YMCA's annual all-over cleaning week, Griffith jumped.

Starting with taking locks off of lockers for a repainting process, moving to scraping floors, vacuuming and spackling, the temporary laborer racked up 20 hours of labor at $10 an hour.

That paycheck was pretty thrilling, she said Friday. "That got me two-thirds of the way I needed for fall classes."

But Griffith's luck was momentary, it seemed. No sooner than she got a little bit ahead than someone broke into her 1995 Chrysler vehicle, "which runs by the grace of God."

Even checking the oil is a problem. A broken dipstick forces Griffith to get the engine oil changed every three months, in case the car is running low.

Yet it was attractive enough to a thief, or at least what the back seat held. Right in front of her house, someone stole Kevin's brand-new backpack and his algebra book -- in itself a setback of $65, Griffith said. "I thought, 'There goes my money.'"

Along with the YMCA pay, however, came a bonus of a raffle ticket from Walla Walla Rotary Club. Y Executive Director Randy Grant had picked up seven tickets and passed them out to those helping with the annual building spiffing-up project as a thank you.

The annual raffle proceeds helps fund various Rotary projects, such as planting 1,500 new trees in Walla Walla after the 2008 windstorm, contributing shelters and playground equipment to area parks and bring clean drinking water to a community in Nigeria.

The biggest raffle prize, $20,000, was for a ticket held by the YMCA.

The ticket Grant gave away as a bonus.

She could hardly believe it when the call came from Flanik, Griffith said. "She's been my best friend since high school. I thought she was messing with my head."

The news, once she could soak it in, was overwhelming.

"This doesn't happen to people who really need it," Griffith said, still surprised by her luck a few days later. "This is life changing for me."

Indeed, she would have been thrilled to win $65, "to replace that algebra book," she added with a laugh.

Her first assignment is to pay ahead for the books and credit hours she needs to finish her yoga accreditation, Griffith said. "The other part is to upgrade my vehicle so it's reliable."

All the better to travel to more weekend jobs, she noted.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or 526-8322. Check out her blog at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom.

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