Life Lessons

Suburban poverty is difficult to envision where we live—Douglas County is one of the most well-heeled counties in the United States. Despite this, even many two-income households in the region are cost-burdened and experiencing financial difficulties. These nonprofit executives share a common goal of exalting those who struggle, including the residents we may not readily identify as needing assistance. Each of these charitable men advises us of the lessons etched into their psyches from the unique perspective of the 501(c)(3) sector, frosting it with sound words of wisdom that may inspire or possibly surprise you.

Joe Roos

Founder/Executive Director

Hide in Plain Sight

"Ignore the distractions. What other people think about you is none of your business. I found success by focusing on who I am and what I want to do to make me fulfilled and purposeful. Learning not to get distracted by those I’m not accountable to has allowed me to pursue my dreams and reach a point of happiness I previously thought unreachable.

"Change your perspective. As a fundraiser, my only job is to tell the story of the organization I represent and give people the chance to decide how they want to use the gifts God has given them. Most people hate taxes, death, speaking in front of people and worst of all, asking for money. My career has reached unimaginable heights by changing my approach to fundraising. You can’t take asking for money personally, but approach it as giving someone the chance to experience the joy of giving.

"Take time to advance your career, regardless of your age or experience. When you’re working, take time to peek out the window to see if there’s a better opportunity for you out there. Even if your job is OK and you seem happy, you may open a door that leads to a greater sense of fulfillment and happiness. And if you don’t find anything better for you, you may become more satisfied with the job you have, the company you work for and the work you do. We only have so much time on Earth, and a great majority of it is spent working. Why not be happy at what you do? By following this rule, my work has evolved from work to what I like to do."

“What other people think about you is none of your business.”

Dennis Gorton

Executive Director


"Know the value of servant leadership. Throughout my life, I have been invited into leadership roles in a culture where leadership has many different meanings. I discovered early on that servant leadership, which looks at people as having the potential to be so much more than they often believe, is a valuable perspective for everyone. 

"My mentor by book and grad school is Robert Greenleaf. His book Servant Leadership altered my thinking and actions, as I chose to stress the importance of courage, humility, character, empathy, common sense and moral values as core to serving others.

"Leadership has, as its first task, to help people discover and reach their full potential. Mentoring, coaching and being available to give stretching opportunities within a job and thus discover the full capabilities of a mentee has brought great change in my life and a meaning that gives me significance. Because I’ve had other people pour their lives into me as a young leader, I learned this value early on. I chose to lead in serving others by placing their interests and needs ahead of my own."

"Jesus set the example for leaders as he taught and lived this way. He was one of the greatest leaders in human history."

 Dan Marlow

Executive Director

Help & Hope Center 

"Help your neighbor. When my wife and I were new parents, we earned about $25,000 per year. We joke about it now, but I remember wondering how we were going to pay the bills. That baby was expensive! Sometimes we had to put diapers on the credit card. A job loss or major illness would have been a crisis.

"Even in Douglas County, people struggle. As a Douglas County resident for years, I’m embarrassed to admit that I was oblivious to the financial struggles of some of our residents. Douglas County is routinely listed in the top 10 wealthiest counties in the country. People who are struggling here are well-hidden—it never occurred to me that some of them might be of my neighbors. In 2017, as I started at Help & Hope Center, I was stunned to learn that we had assisted more than 16,000 people in 2016. More than half of our clients are two-parent families. Our mission is to help them weather the crisis.

"My parents grew up during the Great Depression. Losing their home and not having enough to eat was an indelible experience. I can still hear my dad saying, "You never know when the bottom will fall out.

"Mother Teresa said, “… Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.” This is meaningful because you never know when the bottom will fall out, and the person in need of help might just be your neighbor."

“… Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.” – Mother Teresa

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