Sunday, August 15, 1999

Retired executives share skills

Agency links nonprofits, volunteers

The Cincinnati Enquirer

Page Williams, center, talks with Kristen Wayman at St. Paul's Child Care Center. Watching are the Rev. Judy Greene, left, and Su Sanders, center director.
(Gary Landers photo)
| ZOOM |
        The way Page Williams sees it, there's only so much golf a retiree can play.

        That's why she volunteers for the Executive Service Corps of Cincinnati. The Blue Ash office is affiliated with 41 others nationwide that organize pools of retired professionals to perform volunteer consulting work for nonprofit organizations and schools.

        Ms. Williams, 65, of Fort Thomas, a member of Cinergy's public relations department before her retirement in 1995, started her fifth Executive Service project Friday. She'll lend her marketing and PR skills — not to mention her connections — to a fund-raising effort by St. Paul's Child Care Center in Newport.

        “It rewards me. It makes me feel like I'm making a contribution. It keeps me active and interested,” Ms. Williams said.

        She's not alone.

        Nationally, there are an estimated 15 million seniors (65 and older) who work as volunteers, according to the U.S. Administration on Aging. Retirees and senior citizens account for about a third of all Americans who


        “Older Americans, especially retirees, are in an excellent position to volunteer,” agency officials said in a release. “They not only have the time, but the experience and expertise to help in a variety of activities.”

        The Executive Service Corps is one vehicle that increasing numbers of retirees are using to volunteer.

        In 1998, Tristate volunteers working through the nonprofit Executive Service performed more than 4,000 hours of work valued at roughly $400,000. Retirees spent their careers in fields such as human resources, accounting and materials management at Cincinnati Bell, Fifth Third Bank and Union Central Insurance and Investments.

        Executive Service officials interview interested volunteers and assess their social skills and work history before they are approved for membership. Volunteers are sorted into specialties, which makes matches easier when nonprofit social service agencies or schools call looking for specific skills.

        Members pay $25 a year in dues to Executive Service, which charges other nonprofit groups $30 an hour for its volunteers' services.

        No group is turned away, said executive director Gail Scarbrough. Sliding rates are available.

        The fees cover administrative costs for Executive Search, but local nonprofit organizations have gladly paid them.

        “We could not afford to hire a consultant in this arena to work with us. They'd charge us $150, $200 an hour,” said Mary Jo Davis, executive director of the Women's Crisis Cen ter in Covington. The agency provides emergency shelter for battered women and helps them establish independence if they choose.

        Ms. Davis worked with Ms. Williams and Dr. Robert Pawlicki, formerly of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, to help the Women's Crisis Center develop a system to report outcomes to a funding source, the United Way & Community Chest.

        “They brought such wonderful business skills,” Ms. Davis said. “Having been a social worker all my life, my focus is helping people. Accountability was me saying, "Trust me, I'm making a difference.' But we have to operate like a business to help people.”

        The Women's Crisis Center will start another project Monday to plan a full-day retreat to come up with a five-year strategic plan.

        Glenn Miller, 56, a retired Procter & Gamble purchasing department manager, will meet with Ms. Davis and other staff. The Finneytown man had previously volunteered through Executive Service with Big Brothers & Big Sisters of Greater Cincinnati.

        “I like to do things with nonprofits,” Mr. Miller said. “I want to help people. I have general management skills and expertise in purchasing. I go in and listen and hear what they're saying and try to help them help themselves.”

        Mary McCoy is executive director of Cincinnati Community Shares, an umbrella organization that raises money for nonprofit groups such as the League of Women Voters and Grailville conference and education center in Loveland.

        Community Shares itself has called upon Executive Service volunteers to help it develop a marketing plan, volunteer program and two-minute campaign pitch.

        “They're sages, elders who have a lot of experience and vitality to share,” Ms. McCoy said of the volunteers with whom she has worked.

        Nationally, in 1997, 1,992 Executive Service volunteers initiated 1,705 projects, contributing 221,109 hours of donated time. Estimated at $100-$150 an hour for for-profit consultants on the open market, that comes to more than $22 million.

        Agency directors say executive volunteers have helped. And that's what St. Paul's Child Care Center needs to continue providing quality, low-cost child care for working poor families and single mothers. It has to move because it is located on valuable property between the Oceanic Adventures Newport Aquarium and the planned Millennium Tower.

        “We have a nice board, but there is no one on the board with the experience to figure out how to raise $30,000 or $40,000,” said James McFarlan, vice chairman of the board.

        Through Executive Service, Ms. Williams has done volunteer fund-raising for Willow Wood Center for Grieving Children in Mount Carmel and outcomes assessment with the Women's Crisis Center.

        The Executive Service structure appeals to her and other retirees.

        “There's a beginning and an end point,” said Ms. Williams, who has committed to projects for 50 to 60 hours. Time is arranged up front, but many volunteers put in additional hours that are not billed to the nonprofits by Executive Service.

        “You're not committed for life,” she said. “Some of our members winter in Florida and summer in Michigan. This allows you flexibility.”


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- Retired executives share skills