What’s Your Personal Call to Serve?

Notes from the President: 

jon

I just returned from an exciting session at The Bush Institute’s Stand-to Veteran Leadership Program where we explored a key question each of us faces: why do you make a personal choice to stand for certain beliefs?

The Institute shared a video of a speech given by General Mark Milley, 39th Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army, at Easterseals’ Advocacy Awards where he talked about his personal call to serve. One sentence from General Milley had particular resonance for me. “In this country, in these United States for which I am willing to die, every single one of us is born free and equal, and you will rise based on your merit and skill, and you’re going to be judged by the content of your character, not by the color of your skin.”

I grew up without much money, so I am proud to live in a country where opportunity is available. But it is important to me that beyond available, opportunity is accessible, and that’s why I became involved with Easterseals 12 years ago.

I was fortunate to have a family that read to me and helped me prepare for school. I also had the good fortune of attending high-quality public schools. When I went to Williams College, working during the summers and part-time during the school year enabled me to cover a big chunk of my tuition, unlike today.

After college I became an investment banker, attended Tuck Business School at Dartmouth, and worked in a variety of roles in consulting, investment banking, and at a telecom company before settling down in D.C. at Capital One. Their Executive Board Leadership Program enabled me to serve on the Board of a nonprofit supported by Capital One. I visited Easterseals DC MD VA and instantly connected with the organization’s mission. I saw children of all abilities learning together as well as children from low income families getting high quality early education so they would be positioned to succeed in school and life.

Also at that time my Mom had cancer. Like any nervous son, I was worried about how to take care of her – should I get a home health aide or put her in a nursing home? Both options were deeply unsatisfying as my mom was an extremely social person and I absolutely did not want her to feel isolated. My mother was able to live independently until she entered the hospital two weeks before she died. We never needed Easterseals services for my mother, but it was comforting to know that the combination of medical and social support provided by the Adult Day Services center was available.

These events in my life connected me to Easterseals, and I am honored to be in a position to lead an extraordinary organization that is a source of comfort, relief, and opportunity. It’s really two key aspects of our Vision: hope and realized potential. Easterseals creates a hopeful, inclusive community where all individuals realize their potential and live meaningful lives.

Every day, I see families who remind me of my parents. They want to help their young children be prepared for school, but they have to work multiple jobs just to get by, let alone cover the cost of tuition. I understand how important it is for parents to be able to give their children a chance to get a good education. And I am extremely proud that Easterseals can provide low-income families with scholarships to cover the gap between the cost of delivering our high-quality early education and the reimbursement rates paid by government vouchers (it’s about a $1,000 gap per child per month).

Sometimes friends ask me, “Don’t you hate asking for money?” My reply is – I’m so passionate about our work that I’m happy to spread the word any chance I get. Expanding the services and work of Easterseals DC MD VA is my calling in life and I am honored to answer that call every day.

If you have your own personal “call to serve” story or experience (and it doesn’t even need to be Easterseals), I encourage you to share it with me in the comments below. Our community has so many needs, so I hope this post inspires you to get more involved in some way.

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