Direct Selling Association scholarship winner focuses on giving back

Janae and her grandmother stand next to one of the wheelchairs she raised money for.
Janae Richards and her grandmother, Amway IBO Helene Funk.

Janae Richards, the daughter and granddaughter of Amway Independent Business Owners, drew on her personal experiences with the direct selling industry and the values she learned from her family to win a competitive college scholarship.

Janae was one of six recipients chosen for $2,000 scholarships from the Direct Selling Education Foundation of Canada. She also was named one of the top two students in the group, earning her another $1,000 for her school.

“I am extremely grateful,” said Janae, a third-year nursing student at the University of Calgary. “Since I have decided to pay for my education myself, it has greatly helped relieve the financial burden of attending post-secondary.”

A posed shot of Rhonda Richards, Janae Richards, Swati Mandela, Free Wheelchair Mission Founder Don Schoendorfer, Helene Funk and Jake Funk.

Amway IBO Rhonda Richards, her daughter Janae Richards, Swati Mandela, Free Wheelchair Mission Founder Don Schoendorfer, and Amway IBOs Helene and Jake Funk.

Passing down values

Janae’s grandparents are Jake and Helene Funk, who have been fulltime Amway IBOs for more than 50 years. Janae saw firsthand how her grandparents lived their values through their business and passed those values down to their children and their grandchildren.

“It is very clear that the most important things in their life are their faith and their family,” said Janae, “From my grandparents’ involvement in Amway, I have seen them value people, bless people, love on people and pour into others’ lives.”

Growing up, she witnessed her grandparents always “giving back and lending a helping hand, sharing their faith along the way,” she said. “And because this has been part of my family culture, I strive to do the same thing.”

Inspired to help

One of the biggest examples of that began when she was 10 years old and her grandparents showed her a video about Free Wheelchair Mission, a nonprofit organization that raises funds to provide wheelchairs to people in need around the world. The organization was connected to her grandparents’ mentors in the Amway business.

Janae was struck by the drastic need for wheelchairs – over 100 million globally.

“This organization makes cost-effective wheelchairs, distributing them in third-world countries. These chairs change lives,” she said. “People are given the gift of mobility, which often results in being able to find work and provide for their families.”

That video inspired her and she immediately began fundraising for the organization. She made bracelets and cards, held bake sales and garage sales and spoke at various events asking for support for the organization. She raised enough money for 650 wheelchairs to be given away.

“Individuals in Amway have been a significant reason for this success, listening and donating their time and money,” she said. “My grandparents’ involvement in Amway has provided me access to a platform of influence. I have spoken at several conferences to raise awareness about Free Wheelchair Mission, and I have seen the ripple effect of my work, specifically in children.”

A legacy of giving

Jake and Helene couldn’t be more proud, noting that Janae’s efforts earned her coverage from the local television station and a trip to the nonprofit’s annual fundraising gala where she met Swati Mandela, Nelson Mandela’s granddaughter.

“They hit it off with their common thread to charity,” Helene said.

Janae Richards and Swati Mandela talk at an event.

Janae Richards and Swati Mandela.

Janae’s parents, Rhonda and Rick Richards, are not actively building their Amway business, but Rhonda knows that her parents’ involvement has had a positive influence on their family, mostly from the flexibility they had with their time.

“The biggest thing is that I always had full-time parents,” she said. “And when I had my own children, my parents always had an active role in their lives, and still do.”

She is also proud of what her daughter has learned and accomplished.

“She has learned so much from my parents and how important it is to give back and pour into the lives of other people,” Rhonda said. “She is constantly thinking of ways she could help those less fortunate. I believe she sees a career in nursing through the lens of helping and loving on people.”

To learn more about the Free Wheelchair Mission, visit their website. And to see other scholarship winners, visit the website for the Direct Selling Association of Canada.

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