Occupation: Founder and CEO of Harmony Adoptions
Family: Married Richard Maxey in March of 2010. She has one daughter, Anna Li, 16; and two stepchildren, Ben Maxey, 17, and Rachel Maxey, 11.
Pam grew up in Cincinnati where she earned her bachelor’s degree. She and her first husband moved to the Knoxville area in 1985 when he was one of the original partners with Whittle Communications. She earned her Master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Tennessee.
She was divorced in 1988. In 1995, Pam became a mom.
“I adopted Anna as a single parent in 1995. I really wanted to be a parent,” she says. “I really wanted a child in my life. I hadn’t met anybody, and I thought, ‘I’m going to do this.’”
Wolf traveled to China and adopted her daughter in April of 1995. “She was 6 months old and only weighed 12 pounds,” Wolf says. “Anna gained 4 pounds in a month and was laughing in a couple of days. She revitalized. It is amazing what love and nurturing can overcome.”
Just days before she was to fly to China to pick up her daughter, Wolf lost her job with the UT College of Law. When she returned, the new mom found a Chinese woman to watch the infant during the day, and she worked multiple jobs to support them. “I didn’t know how we were going to do it, but if I had to put jobs together, that is what I would do.”
In 1996, Wolf got her license to place children through the state and started a for-profit business while maintaining additional part time jobs to pay the bills. Five years later, she re-incorporated as a non-profit business and obtained grants that enabled to her grow the business substantially.
The whole idea for Harmony Adoptions grew out of her experiences in adopting and nurturing Anna Li.
While Wolf says the work at Harmony is gratifying, it also can be emotionally grueling. “To be the person who takes that child from the birth mother and walks down the hall to the adoptive parents is an honor, and it is the hardest work I’ve ever done,” she says. “You’re dealing with grief of the mom making that very, very hard decision, and yet you’re dealing with joy at the other end. It is a hard, hard process.”
Wolf says she loves to hang out with her daughter. “I love horses and love riding my horse, and I love to watch my daughter ride,” Wolf says. “She loves, loves, loves to jump horses, and it is thing of beauty to watch when they do it well. It is also scary.”
Wolf says she also enjoys working in the barn with family. “I love the way being in the barn makes me feel. I love it in winter and in summer. There’s nothing quite like it.”
Here is Pam Wolf:
What is your favorite quote from television or a movie?
“It is from ‘The Blind Side,’ when Sandra Bullock’s friend tells you, ‘You’re so good to have that boy. You’re changing that boy’s life.’ She says, ‘He’s changing mine.’ That’s what Anna Li did for me.” There is also a line from the movie ‘Secretariat.’ This woman takes on this horse and says, ‘You’ve got to try. You never know how far you can go if you don’t run.’ You never do know what you can do unless you try. I want Harmony’s legacy to be: All you have to do is try. Everybody has a responsibility to make a difference.”
What are you guilty of?
“Of going so fast that I sometimes don’t pay attention to the details.”
What is your favorite material possession?
“I started to say it was my iPad, but my favorite possession is going to be my truck, as soon as I get it. A Chevrolet four-door half ton truck.”
What are you reading currently?
“It is grant writing season, so I’m reading lots of grant applications. I’m also reading ‘The Pollyanna Principles.’ It is about re-thinking how non-profits work.”
What was your most embarrassing moment?
“I forgot to pick my child up from school. Being in child welfare work, that is a bad thing.”
What are the top three things on your bucket list?
“I want to go the Greek Isles. I really want to learn how to ride a Western pleasure horse, and I want to take Anna Li to Europe.”
What is one word others often use to describe you and why?
“I would probably say determined because I truly am.”
If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
“I can be a little controlling. I hate to admit that, and I’m working on it.”
What is your passion?
“My passion is my family, raising my child and changing kid’s lives.”
With whom, living or dead, would you most like to have a long lunch?
“Thomas Jefferson. I really am fascinated by the Constitution. It is a document that has transcended time. If you think about it, the folks who wrote it had tremendous insight. One thing they missed though was the whole term limits deal.”
If you could go back in time for a week, what time period or year would you visit?
“It would be the time they were writing Constitution.”
What is the best present you ever received in a box?
“My engagement ring. It was a complete surprise.”
What is the best advice your mother ever gave you?
“Take responsibility for your actions.”
Other than your parents, who has had the biggest influence on your life and why?
“My daughter, Anna Li. She opened doors in my heart I never dreamed were there and made me a more loving person.”
Do you Myspace, Facebook or Twitter?
“No, but my volunteer coordinator Aaron Killian constantly tells me I need to.”
What’s the worst job you have ever had?
“Going into nursing homes for psychiatric assessments. It was the hardest job I ever did.”
What was your favorite Saturday morning cartoon and why?
“I never watched Saturday morning cartoons, but I loved the ‘Jetsons.’”
What irritates you?
“Entitled people and dishonesty. Always tell me the truth.”
What’s one place in Blount County everyone should visit?
“Camp Montvale. It is a sacred place, a place full of hope. We’re in the process of renovating and turning it into the Harmony Family Center at Montvale.”
If you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself at 18?
“It is such an uncertain time, you have to believe in yourself.”
What is your greatest fear?
“Snakes. I just do not like snakes.”
If you could do one impulsive thing, what would it be?
“I would love to take my horse up to the mountains and ride and not go to work one day. When I get my truck and trailer, I’m going to take my horse to Montvale and spend the whole day on the trails with no cell phone or iPad.”