This year my birthday definitely feels different! As I reach my Medicare qualifying date, there are many changes in my life. Six months ago, I left the role that I saw as very much a defining purpose for me. I had no idea what the days ahead would hold, and how I would find fulfillment in other activities. After being so totally invested in my day-to-day leadership of Arizona Helping Hands, I wondered what the future would hold.
I have been so blessed in my professional career(s). As a successful CPA, I established a small tax practice of my own to assist clients, most of whom I proudly called friends. As a Trustee of a real estate trust, I have had the privilege of managing assets and activities that provide support to family beneficiaries and charities. But it was in my non-profit leadership role where I truly found personal satisfaction. There was no purpose more rewarding than assisting foster families with their basic needs, clothing, birthday packages and, most importantly, a safe place to sleep for children who had been abused and neglected. Stepping aside from an activity that brought me enormous joy and satisfaction left a major hole for me to fill.
The saying that “when one door closes, another opens” has seemed a bit trite to me, but this year I’ve learned that the adage has merit. I learned that I need to stay involved in charitable activities. I’m not ready to hang up my cleats and rock the days away. After being so focused on one cause, I’ve had an opportunity to expand my horizons. I’ve met with other nonprofit leaders to get an understanding of the great work they are doing and the sometimes enormous challenges they must overcome in order to achieve the organizational mission. I’m having fun connecting dots – introducing charity collaborators, inspiring new volunteers and donors, and educating the community about the amazing people who work hard every day to make our community stronger.
I’ve found that I can keep Moving Forward and can continue Giving Back. In these six months, I’ve written stories about people I’ve known a long time, like Denise Resnik, who is truly an inspiration for the work she has done in the autism arena (“Meet Denise Resnik – a Force of Nature”), and Kris Jacober who has devoted much of her life to making lives better for children in foster care (“Kris Jacober, always there for Arizona’s children in foster care”). I’ve written about newer friends like Eshawn Peterson, who just wants to give hope to kids who have experienced foster care as she and her sister did (“I’m just a foster kid trying to help others like me!”), and Michelle Moorhead, whose energies help teens on the brink of suicide (“At Teen Lifeline, Teens Provide a Lifeline to their Peers”). These wonderful humans and so many like them motivate me and give me the passion to continue to shine a light on the important work they do every day.
“Retirement” looks different for everyone. For most of my life, I was afraid of what walking away from a career would mean. I’ve learned this year that a role does not define me. I don’t need the title of CEO to feel fulfilled. Rather, it’s my desire and yearning to lend my helping hand to the organizations and causes that mean something to me that will fill that hole.
Going into my next year of life, I am excited to continue this work. To share with you the stories of goodness that happen at charities around town, and across the country, and to give a pat on the back to those who take on the enormous task of making lives better for all. I hope you’ll follow my personal journey to learn more about how you can join me in Giving Back, and how together we can all keep Moving Forward!
Dan Shufelt, the former CEO of Arizona Helping Hands, has been involved in the charity world as an executive and grant maker for many years.
If you enjoy learning of caring people and the amazing work they devote their energy to advance, be sure to sign up for Dan’s blog (see sign-up form below).