Impact Stories

Jay O'Connell's Story

I am 65 years old, I retired two years ago and have planned, saved and been very fortunate in my life. I needed to find purpose. Belonging to Each Other is a non-profit based in Falmouth, MA that addresses homelessness in my community. We believe that “Hope is real and change is possible”. Belonging to Each Other was established in 2015 in the basement of a local church. Since then, we have grown into an organization that now has two houses for men and women to stay in while we transition them to stable housing.

Greg White's Story

In the winter of 2006, I started searching for ski clubs in Orange County to meet other skiers. All the websites had at least one group photo and when looking closely, I saw that I would either be the oldest person in the group, or one of, if not the youngest in the group, as the ski clubs appeared to have members in their 20’s and 30’s, or 50’s and 60’s. None of the groups I found looked like they were a good match for me. After searching for some time, I came across the website for The Achievers, the Orange County chapter of Disabled Sports USA., and instantly knew volunteering with this group is something I wanted to do.

Yanet Gonzalez's Story

Growing up in a low-income Mexican household, weekends were spent in strawberry fields and stables where my dad worked, while weekdays saw us hustling in different ways to make ends meet. My dad worked tirelessly, and my mom, despite her struggles with mental health, was a pillar of strength. Through all this, my foundation was one of grit, love, and an unwavering commitment to family.

Jenny Roney's Story

I credit my parents for instilling in me the drive and commitment to giving back and being involved with something bigger than yourself. They were both involved in many community boards and activities for as long as I can remember.

Ed Hart's Story

As a Senior Vice President and Director of the Center for Family-Owned Businesses at First Bank, I have spent my career as a family business ambassador, consultant, and educator. My main focus for First Bank is to build the brand for our family-owned bank throughout the state of California. I do this primarily by working with family enterprises by creating educational programs, events, webinars, podcasts, and other avenues in which they can build their networks, and learn tools to help them run their businesses more effectively.

Jenn Klein's Story

Jenn Klein’s love of philanthropy began when she was just a child. Her parents modeled giving back to their community through involvement with the local school board, little league, church, and Rotary International. As a teen she was active with her church youth group and painted summer camp buildings, sang Christmas Carols to the elderly, fundraised for hunger relief, and much more.

Debora Wondercheck's Story

I was as 10 years old when my journey began.

I had my cello on my back and suitcase in my hand with 3 of my other siblings, escaping on a train from Chicago to Denver Co.

You might ask now why did you have a cello on your back? Well, my mom at the age of 10 had a deep desire to play an instrument. Although she attended a school in the 50’s where the systemic and prevailing discrimination of that time denied her the opportunity to play.

Nick Jordan's Story

I was born and raised on a farm with my family in County Wexford, Ireland. Upon attending high school at FCJ Order of Nuns in Bunclody, I received my diploma and went on to study English and Education at the University College of Dublin. Later, I went on to become a fourth grade teacher for four years where I developed a passion for shaping young minds and creating positive impact.

Janice Frechette-Artinger's Story

How my WHY guided me through days past, motivates me today, and encourages me for the tomorrows that lie ahead…

Nicole Suydam's Story

My parents separated when I was 4 years old and divorced shortly after when I was 5. And then my father unexpectedly passed away when I was 7—in a tragic car accident. When he passed, I was really worried. I didn’t know what to expect because even though they were divorced, I knew he financially supported us. Plus, my mom had very little education or work experience and her job up until that point had been to take care of me.


Eric Goodman's Story

I was Forest Gump when I was a kid, physically. From the age of 3-5 I had leg braces like Forest. I can see him running down the driveway on the long county road. My childhood memories are different but this is how it started. By society standards, I was disabled.

Paula Garcia-Arsenault's Story

After a thirty-year career in the banking industry, I began to feel a yearning inside me that could not be ignored. A yearning to do more. As an active member of my community already, I knew that non-profit and community-based work was my calling.

Marty Dutch's Story

It was a Quest that empowered me to combine my love of philanthropy with my work. I have been very active in the nonprofit community for years and when my kids went off to college I realized that I could change my career, but to what? So began the quest.

Sara Safari's Story

I was standing on top of the highest point in the World on May 20th, 2022. I could look around and see the whole world spread out before me. The whole Himalayas range was visible, running up the spine of the continent for hundreds of miles. The view was majestic, gorgeous, and I was standing at 29,032 feet above sea level with roughly less than half the normal amount of oxygen in my gasping lungs. But most amazing of all to me was how good I was feeling. I waited 9 years for this moment and I could not believe this is it. I was crying tears of joy, and every cell in my body was dancing from happiness and fulfillment.

Shaheen Husain's Story

Shaheen’s awareness of inequity began during her childhood in Africa
where she observed the huge divide between those who had and those
who did not. This awareness grew as she travelled through Asia,
Europe, and North America. Therefore, it is no surprise that she has
been focused on nonprofits for over 25 years, both professionally and
as a volunteer. 

Julie Cho's Story

Julie Cho is the principal attorney of Cho Law Firm, APC. She is an estate planning attorney with over 23 years of legal experience, and has counseled individuals in matters involving estate planning, wills and trusts, and business planning.

Traci Schirachi

Traci Shirachi's Story

Traci is the CEO of The Mark USA, Inc. The Mark helps nonprofits, businesses, and academic organizations collect, analyze, and visualize data; manage projects and programs; streamline strategic plans; monitor progress; evaluate impact; maintain compliance, and report results to stakeholders and funders. 

Penny Lambright

Penny Lambright's Story

Penny Lambright is the founder of the non-profit organization, “Patriots and Paws” in Anaheim, California. Lambright collects used household items and “sells” them to vets. She invites them to “shop” at a warehouse, but no money is required because everything is free. 

Bill Cunningham

William F. “Bill” Cunningham's Story

Bill Cunningham is from the rural Midwest. His small town high school graduating class was only 36 students. He prides himself on that upbringing of traditional values which gave him an innate service heart. His father, Bill Sr. expected that every driveway of a senior citizen in the neighborhood be shoveled by his six sons, and sometimes the three girls, without expecting a reward. 

Liza Krassner's Story

Liza Krassner is a first-generation Filipino who came to California as a teenager and is currently an administrator at UCI’s Program in Public Health. She loves jazz. “It’s important to me. It is America’s original and greatest art form. It is diverse, unique, and encompasses almost everyone.” Liza also enjoys the dance arts, but especially the tango, which she dances socially whenever her time allows. “Jazz and tango are art forms built on improvisation”, she says, “It’s just like life – we have to constantly improvise.”

Lee Goldberg

Lee R. Goldberg's Story

I was born in Bronx NY into an immigrant Jewish family that came through Ellis Island. As we say it these days… that is how I “identify”. Yet, it was important back then, and certainly in my family, to assimilate into, and thrive in, American society.

Michael Vaughn

Michael Vaughn's Story

Michael Vaughn – His Story First, I was curious. Then I was inspired. My daughter had married a young man, an officer in the US Marine Corp., based in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Way over there on the other side of the Country. I had discovered that my hometown, the City of Rancho Santa Margarita, had “adopted” an infantry battalion, the 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines (the “2/5”), which is based at Camp Pendleton, California. 

Jordan Bennett

Jordan Bennett's Story

It is an amazing thing to look around your own life and be overwhelmed with gratitude in a way that compels you to share it. That is how our journey with Safe Families started. We realized we could stand shoulder to shoulder as a family and offer our time, our home, our love. and serve families in need right here where we lived.

Wendy Hooper Ross

Wendy Hooper Ross's Story

Wendy Hooper Ross knows a lot about the value of health and life. Years of childhood disease caused extensive damage to her heart. Her chronic symptoms of fatigue, seizures, and fainting went misdiagnosed for many years. After a decade of vigilant advocacy for her healthcare, her rare cardiac condition was finally properly diagnosed. Her first pacemaker was implanted in 2000 and she hasn’t slowed down since.

Antoinette Balta

Antoinette Balta's Story

Antoinette comes from a large and hardworking family. Her mother, born to a tribe of farmers, is the first of nine children and her father, born in the inner city, is the youngest of six. Seeking a life of stability, her parents immigrated to the United States where Antoinette was born and afforded all the opportunities of the American Dream.

Leilani Quiray

Leilani Quiray's Story

I’ve been doing HR since I was 16 years old when the neighbor wanted to hire me to do his payroll. My career since then has been beautiful mix of hard work and opportunity. Through my HR career I began volunteering at Working Wardrobes, coaching men and women who are transitioning back into the workforce out of some type of difficult life situation: homelessness, abuse, addiction, sex trafficking, and veterans entering civilian life. I give blood, donate money, feed and clothe the homeless.

Dawn Reese

Dawn Reese's Story

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology from California State University Long Beach, I had planned to return college to become a teacher and eventually a school principal. As life would take a turn shortly after graduation, I began working for my sorority sister’s father Randal Waltito build a CEO Coaching and management consulting firm for the technology sector.

Michelle Wulfestieg

Michelle Wulfestieg's Story

Michelle Wulfestieg had her first stroke when she was eleven years old, which led to the diagnosis of a rare vascular brain lesion, known as an Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM), or a tangle of blood vessels and arteries. With no other options, she underwent two very intense forms of radiation, which caused permanent paralysis to the right side of her body. She had to learn how to do everything with her left hand as she mourned the loss of all the activities she used to be able to do – running, playing sports, and just being a kid.

Shawn Wehan

Shawn Wehan's Story

Shawn Wehan lives a life of purpose, which, in his case, is to help bridge the gap between the needs of the community and the gifts and talents of its members. As Shawn puts it, “The world is full of people who want to be a force for good. They sometimes just don’t know where to start.”

Brandon Moody

Brandon Moody's Story

Raised by a single mother in the City of Anaheim, Brandon started his sales and marketing career working with one of the oldest automotive families in Orange County, The Hardin Family. From a Greeter position at the age of 16 while still attending Katella High School, he left as the Internet Sales Manager at 19 to pursue high line sales at House of Imports across the county. He later spent a few years dabbling in the mortgage arena until the housing market and fall of subprime lending.

Stephanie Courtillier

Stephanie Courtillier's Story

I’m a workaholic, ambitious, driven individual living the crazy, chaotic entrepreneur life. You know, the one where you have a million ideas in your head, build on too many of them at a time, and then either get bored with or over analyze your ideas with little to no results to show for it. Or, finally get the business off the ground, and hit the next roadblock. The same vicious cycle, over and over again.

Michael Kogutek

Michael Kogutek's Story

My story begins as an undergraduate student at the University of Wiscon-sin-Oshkosh. I came there with a basic understanding that one of my career goals was to make a difference and help other people. I was blessed to take a psychology course with Dr. Gordon Filmer-Bennett. He was a part time instructor and worked as Chief Psychologist at Winnebago State Hospital. After the first class, I wanted to do what Gordon does. It had in my heart and soul. I changed my major to psychology and never looked back.

Bob Greenberg

Bob Greenberg's Story

As a long time, Orange County resident and now retired Financial Planner, Bob has been giving back for over 25 years.

His non-profit experience started when he was asked to help the Orange County American Heart Association’s Planned Giving Council, which led to his eventually becoming the Board Chairman.When he stepped down, he realized there was no training for volunteer leaders and started the Non-Profit President’s Forum providing quarterly learning sessions for the Presidents and Chairs of local non-profits.

David Elliott

David Elliott's Story

I have been a 30 year plus community member of Orange County. Currently serve as President/CEO of the Santa Ana Chamber of Commerce serving the second largest city in Orange County (375,000 people). In 2016, founded the INSTITUTE for Community Impact focused on helping individuals and organizations impact their communities through the (7) Pillars for Influence: Arts and Entertainment, Business, Social Services, Faith community, Education, Government and Healthcare.

Terry Waldon

Terry Waldon's Story

It started with lunch at the Center Club. Richard and I serve on an advisory council together and he suggested we get together and learn a little more about each other. After a fascinating few hours swapping background stories and past endeavors, Richard told me about “Success with Purpose” and asked me to tell my story… and here it is.


Pearl's Story

Growing up in England during World War II. I personally experienced poverty and saw the need for having people who cared and were willing to give to others. My maternal grandmother a petite lady rode her bike around her village offering her nursing skills and warm caring. She was my role model that helped determine my career in nursing. As a young girl I volunteered with the British Red Cross and at 16 worked in a children’s convalescent facility, with children from poor homes with chronic diseases.

Colleen Richardson

Colleen Richardson's Story

Describing my volunteer involvements, I am now aware that my commitment to give community service was an exercise in good karma: volunteering actually gave me so much more of a return than the time and effort I gladly donated!

John Guastaferro

John Guastaferro's Story

John Guastaferro, CFRE, is an award-winning marketing executive, nonprofit leader, and professional magician! That’s right, beyond John’s career as the Executive Director of the Anaheim Community Foundation and his leadership with several philanthropic organizations, John is an internationally-acclaimed author and magician. He has lectured and performed across nine countries and can often be seen headlining at the world-famous Magic Castle in Hollywood.

Bob Karcher

Bob karcher's Story

As a young boy I can remember looking forward in life and knowing the kind of life I wanted … the “American Dream.” I wanted to achieve great status, accomplish much, have a lot of money, and have the “perfect” family.

Jennifer Friend

Jennifer Friend's Story

During my junior high and high school years, my three brothers, our parents and I often packed our lives into 214-square-foot motel rooms. Feelings of shame, lack of privacy, and an economically schizophrenic childhood created an environment where the basic elements of being a kid were sometimes lost, like doing homework.

Norris Battin

Noris Battin's Story

Stan Hinden, a Washington Post business journalist, passed away recently at 90. In an obituary tweet, columnist David Ignatius wrote, “In addition to his column for [our Washington Post] Business section, Stan wrote a wonderful book called ‘How to Retire Happy.’ He did.”

I think they’ll be able to say that about me, too.

Doug Edward

Doug Edward's Story

When Richard Ward approached me to write a column about myself for, I was flattered, amused and hesitant. Richard has been my financial advisor for three decades and my BFF for nearly half a century. There was no way I could say, “No, thank you.” And so I write.

Since early childhood I knew that I would be an Episcopal priest, a US Senator, or a Supreme Court justice. At age 20 I looked under the hood of politics and scratched the goal of being a Senator.

Victoria Collins

Victoria Collins' Story

In this stage of my life, I think about the values, hopes, and dreams I most want to leave our children and grandchildren. How will my story be told and what will my legacy be?

It’s clear to me that legacy is not about wealth but about your actions—how they will define you, and how they will impact others. A legacy is something bigger than who you are today. It is more than what you did this week, this month, or even this year. A legacy is something you are creating right now, whether you realize it or not.

Charles Antis

Charles Antis' Story

Charles Antis wants to live life for his purpose, which is to help ignite the passion for a personal cause in everyone. But he didn’t always feel that way. At age 19, a student at BYU in Utah, Charles went on a traditional Mormon mission to Thailand. Uncomfortable about pushing his family’s religion over Buddhism, he struggled to find fulfillment.

Ali Woodard

Ali Woodard's Story

It’s a little-known secret that there exists a pernicious cycle of teen mothers whose children often also become pregnant as teenagers. But that fact wasn’t known to Ali Woodard, an adopted child whose birth mother was a teenager. Ali grew up as many southern California kids did, which made it all the more difficult when she became pregnant at age 16. Embarrassed and ashamed, Ali told no one about her plight and “handled it” the only way she could imagine with the help of Planned Parenthood. With that behind her, Ali continued her life, getting a degree from Cal State Long Beach and embarking on a successful career as the executive assistant to top business executives running some of California’s most successful companies.

Lisa Ackerman

Lisa Ackerman's Story

In September 1999, the word “autism” rang through my ears like a cannon shot across the bow. My husband and I knew something was not going well with our son Jeff, but we would have never guessed it was autism.

Following that fateful visit with the neurologist, we visited many other professionals, including medical doctors, speech pathologists, audiologists, and behaviorists. The list seemed endless. The common message we were given: Autism has no hope, no cure. In fact, the first three medical doctors recommended that my family find “institutional placement” for Jeff who was the ripe old age of 2½ years at the time.

Sue Koch

Sue Koch's Story

Sue Koch spent most of her career in the Engineering and Construction industry. Her career chose her more than she chose it. Sue started out as a data entry processor, knowing from the beginning that she wanted to learn, grow, and become something more. She just didn’t have a clue about who that might be.


Matt O"Connell

Matt O'Connell's Story

I thought I was going to retire from the company. In my twenty years at the firm, I had moved from an entry level sales rep position to leading our corporate divisions in Latin America, Europe, North America and finally the global team. During those years, we quadrupled revenue and became the most profitable division in the company. I loved it and I really couldn’t image the company surviving without me, or more truthfully, me surviving without the company.

Marla Noel

Marla Noel's Story

Marla Noel has a long and distinguished business history. Trained as a CPA, Marla began her career as an accountant aiming to run her own firm. She shifted gears and pursued a career in corporate America, working for May Co., Seely Wolf, and finally Fairhaven Memorial Park and Mortuary. She rose to the President’s position.

Jerri Rosen

Jerri Rosen's Story

In 1990, I was President of J.L. Rosen & Company, blending 25+ years of marketing communications experience in developing results-oriented planned giving and development programs for nonprofit organizations. At the same time, I started my ad agency, five friends and I found ourselves disturbed by the growing statistics of domestic violence. The group set out on a mission to help.

Je"net Kreitner

Je'net Kreitner's Story

Je’net Kreitner has a great story of turning life’s harshest lessons into life’s greatest blessings. Shortly after a very poor relationship ended badly, Je’net and her young son we’re dropped on the side of the road with nowhere to go. She and her son became part of the growing homeless population. After a hopeless six months of struggling to survive on the streets and bouncing from one motel to another, an angel entered her life.

Donnie Crevier

Donnie Crevier's Story

Donnie Crevier is on a mission to help kids who need, and want, a hand up. Crevier reveals that this impetus is rooted in his own childhood. Despite growing up in the affluent community of Laguna Beach, Crevier remembers the many challenges his single mother faced. As they moved from apartment to apartment, Donnie found stability at the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach – which he remains deeply connected to as a member of its board of directors.

Bill Bracken

Bill Bracken's Story

I had no idea. Literally no idea, about the impact that my decision to create and start Bracken’s Kitchen would have on so many people. I guess there are a lot of people walking through life wondering if there isn’t something more. Something more meaningful, something more heart felt or just something more that they should be doing. “What is the meaning of life?” is a question that has been asked for generations. After all, deep inside of every one of us is a longing and desire to know that in some small way, it has made a difference that we have lived.

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