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Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Straight Priorities

In the mid 80’s my life was a huge mess, but fortunately I was able to turn things around. I realized what I was doing wrong and where my priorities needed to be… faith, family and friends come first, and made the necessary changes. By early 1989 my life was going really well. I was operating a successful business in Orange County, had a new place to live, and lots of new friends. I remember waking up one day and saying to myself, “I need to thank God for all the blessings He has given me.” But thanking Him just didn’t seem like enough, so I decided to show my gratitude by “giving back”.

When I got to work that morning, I grabbed the yellow pages (remember those days) and started looking for charities located near my office. As I ran my finger down the page, I came across the “Saddleback Community Outreach”. Since I had this beautiful view of Saddleback Mountain right outside my window, it inspired me to pick that charity. I went down to their office that same day and discovered it was a brand new charity just starting up. The owner was 70 years old and had recently sold his insurance business so that he could spend all of his time helping others. Talk about having your priorities straight!

I started volunteering every Wednesday afternoon and found it to be both fun and satisfying. I was shocked at how many homeless and hungry people there were in such an affluent area, and the ones that really touched my heart were the single Moms who didn’t have enough food for their children. I continued working every Wednesday for several years and then I received an unusual “reward” for my efforts in 1991… when I met my future wife!

After Debby and I were married in 1995, she decided to get involved with the Outreach as well, except in a much larger way. By 2006 it had become one of the largest charities in South Orange County and at that time they decided to elect Debby as President of the Board of Directors. I can’t even begin to add up the number of hours Debby has put in working for free for SCO (which is now called South County Outreach), or the sleepless nights she has spent worrying about coming up with enough money and donations to buy food each month. Her dedication to the organization has been incredible and it has also been extremely inspiring to me, as well as to many others. I only spent a few hours a week for two years doing charity work, while Debby has spent over 11 years doing all she could to make it super successful. She obviously also has her priorities straight, which reminds me and inspires me… to keep my priorities straight as well.

Today, Monday June 12th, 2017, Debby sent a letter to the Board of Directors of the South County Outreach announcing her retirement. When she copied me on the letter, I felt a flood of emotions. I was surprised by her letter, but I was also happy for her because the stress related to her position at SCO was really overwhelming at times. For a businessman like me to carry the stress of running an organization is not so unusual because I am paid extremely well for my efforts. But for a volunteer to run an organization the size of SCO, and to do it for free for 11 years, is extraordinary. Debby, thank you for all you have done to help so many needy people and thank you for showing all of us how important it is to keep our priorities straight. I realize now that the real reward I received when I met and fell in love with you… was the inspiration you have given me to become the best man I can possibly be.
Debby, 4th from the left, hiding in the background
All men should strive to learn before they die, 
what they are running from, and to, and why.
~ James Thurber

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