Constance Wolfe, 41, co-owner of Halcyon House, creator of the Dining Card Group and Lawrence GiveBack card, is passionate about supporting local businesses and helping nonprofit organizations in spite of the gloomy economy. Although she’s traveled throughout the United States as a competitive Ultimate Frisbee player and halfway around the world as a fifth-grader, her heart’s in Lawrence.
“I believe we can all do something to support our local community in spite of these tough economic times,” she says.
Wolfe’s own sense of community was challenged when her parents divorced and her mother sold their Wichita home and took 10-year-old Wolfe and her 17-year-old brother globe-trotting.
“We traveled throughout England and Europe, staying in bed and breakfasts and living out of suitcases,” she recalls.
Plans to meet an older brother in China were abandoned when her maternal grandfather died. She moved to Lawrence in 1985 when her mother and business partner acquired Halcyon House.
Wolfe’s internal unrest was mirrored in world events such as protests in China and efforts to topple the Berlin Wall, and inspired her to travel again after graduating from Lawrence High School in 1986.
“After graduation I decided to go to the University of California to study political science for personal benefit and understanding of world events,” she recalls.
As part of the university’s intern program, Wolfe worked in the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s international relationship department in Washington, D.C. She remained in D.C. after her 1991 graduation and worked for the National Association of Foreign-Trade Zones.
In 1995 she returned to Lawrence. She became co-owner of Halcyon House and worked in real estate. She became involved with the distribution of Lawrence Dining Cards, a program for real estate agents to purchase dining cards and personalize them for clients. The program was a success and expanded into the Kansas City and Denver markets.
“I created the Dining Card Group as the umbrella organization for all these outlets and to cover future expansion,” Wolfe explains.
A casual breakfast conversation with a Halcyon guest inspired her to study business models and eventually led her to develop another dining card program to benefit charitable organizations and local restaurants.
“Once the program was implemented and I saw how local charities made it a successful fundraising program, I was hooked,” she says.
She was hooked in another way, too. Friends arranged a blind date with John Novosel Jr., and they’re now married with a 3-year-old daughter.
When state and city budget cuts began affecting local businesses and nonprofits, Wolfe stepped into action. She worked with 20 local restaurants, Checkers Foods and several other businesses to develop the Lawrence GiveBack program. When the free card is presented at a participating business, a percentage of the bill is donated to the cardowner’s named charity. The card has generated nearly $3 million for local businesses and more than $40,000 for local nonprofits since its February 2009 inception.
“I enjoy working with local business owners,” Wolfe says. “The GiveBack card’s a great fun way for all of us to support our local community especially in this season of giving.”