Little pleases us more at BoomerCafé than stories we come across that actually extol the wisdom, the value, and the experience of baby boomers. So this piece from The Arizona Republic hits home. CEO Judy Jolley Mohraz is president and CEO of Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, and Nora Hannah is CEO of Experience Matters, a Phoenix non-profit that connects skilled boomers with non-profits that can use their help.
Legends of an untapped gold mine float through Arizona history. We have found that treasure — and it isn’t the Lost Dutchman’s Gold Mine nestled in the Superstition Mountains. The gold is in the 1.1 million Baby Boomers living in Maricopa County.
These folks age 50 and older have education, experience, and a passion to solve hard community problems. They know they have decades longer to live in better health than any generation in history. And they don’t want to “retire” their talents. They are ready for the next stage of life and many want an encore career that builds a new non-profit or helps an agency tackle tough challenges.
Their work and wisdom are like a vein of gold for Maricopa County.
Here’s an example:
Mike McQuaid, the first Piper Trust Encore Career Prize Awardee, is determined to end chronic homelessness in Maricopa County. In his first career, he was a successful real-estate developer who found time to volunteer with his family to serve meals to the homeless. But he knew services needed to be better coordinated, not spread throughout the community. He led the effort to build and manage the Human Services Campus that houses more than 20 agencies serving homeless people. Using his business expertise, he worked with elected officials, the county manager and community leaders to raise the money for as well as plan and build the Campus, the first in the nation and a national model. Today, it serves more than 1,000 people every day.
Mike has been involved with the planning and operation of the campus for 13 years and has served as its managing director or board president for the past 10 years for just a symbolic $1 per month — his only compensation. As he led work on the Campus, he recognized that to solve chronic homelessness, people needed permanent supportive housing. The new goal, through his work with Valley of the Sun United Way, is to develop 1,000 housing units; 700 are already in place. Mike is determined that no veteran will be homeless within a year and no single individuals within two years.
Try to quantify the value of Mike’s efforts — to the community, to the non-profits, and, most importantly, to the people who have suffered some of the hardest knocks in life. He is a 24-carat example of this community gold mine, but there are thousands more who are engaged in purposeful encore work, many through the efforts of Experience Matters, a local non-profit that assists people over 50 find their next act for the social good.
Experience Matters, established just a few years ago, has already driven $3 million in human capital into Maricopa County’s social sector and made our community a national laboratory for programs connecting Boomer talent with non-profit needs. The talent is providing expertise across non-profit organizations from strategic planning to finance and information technology to marketing and fundraising.
Marc Freedman, founder of Encore.org, has reminded us that Phoenix reinvented Americans’ ideas of retirement when Del Webb introduced his first retirement community in Sun City in 1960. Today another generation is reinventing life after 50, and once again our community is leading the way.
The Lost Dutchman Mine may remain lost, but the real gold is all around us.