Janice Frechette-Artinger, Executive Director – Parentis Foundation

Janice Frechette-Artinger's Story

When I Discovered my WHY

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

In the fall of 2019, I was offered a life changing opportunity to receive executive coaching from the non-profit, Executive Coaches of Orange County. The then chair, Michael Kogutek sent me a message via LinkedIn sharing that as a non-profit Executive Leader I qualified to receive no-cost executive coaching and would I be interested in receiving a coach. For those of you navigating the non-profit world, this offer was equivalent to hearing I’d received a sizeable, multi-year renewable grant! Without hesitation I said yes.

Soon after, I was paired with my Executive Coach Bryan Powell. During our initial meeting Bryan encouraged me to write down my personal and professional goals and reflect on my WHY I was working in non-profit and leading the Parentis Foundation’s Mission to Inspire Youth and Empower Seniors through Intergenerational Connections. To assist in completing this assignment, he recommended if I had not read it yet, to read the book Start with Why by Simon Sinek.

What was my WHY? Little did I know that this assignment would lead me into a journey of self-reflection. I realized my passion for serving others was rooted in childhood and the mentors that inspired me along the way.

As most of us can relate, my journey has had many twists and turns that have led me to where I am today. I believe my WHY began in third grade. While all my peers were on the playground, I was compelled to walk across my elementary school courtyard to the school for the Development Center for the Handicapped (DCH) where both schools shared the same campus. I felt curious to learn more about the children who shared our school but went to a different set of classrooms. I wanted to know how I could help them. I did not shy away from their differences, but knew I had something I could offer them: read books, play games, sing songs, etc. My curiosity turned into a passion to learn as much as I could about childhood disabilities and their unique needs. I learned what it meant to serve others and truly enjoyed spending all my after-school hours and summer vacations volunteering for DCH well into my high school years. The mentors I met and the relationships I formed with the student’s shaped my future far beyond what I could realize at the time.

Most who knew me as a young adult would say I was “an old soul.” At 17, eager to move my life along, I graduated high school early and began my college education at Cal State Fullerton hoping to complete my degree in early childhood education and become a teacher. Ultimately, my journey took a few twists and turns resulting in my education being put on hold for another 12 years. During this 12-year hiatus from college, I married, moved to Connecticut and had two children, all while assisting our local school district in launching a community Family Resource Center and an integrated pre-school.

In June of 1995, at age 26, my life took an unexpected turn. I found myself a widow raising two young children alone. I was now facing life as a young mother, widow, and caregiver to my mother who was terminally ill with cancer. Yes, this was my life at 26 years old… But, thanks to the amazing mentors in my life and my belief that my purpose was bigger than my grief, I persevered.

These unimaginably difficult life challenges taught me at a young age that there was no obstacle to big that I could not overcome. I was once again reminded of the WHY that drove me. My faith, my children, my desire to give back to others facing similar and greater life challenging circumstances.
As my children grew up and went off to college, I continued to navigate the twists and turns of life. In reflection, my proudest achievement was seeing my children thrive as young adults as I continued to find my greatest joy when serving others both in my professional career and my personal philanthropic endeavors.

In 2010, I took a huge leap of faith and returned to California. Fast forward to 2023, I am happily married to my supportive husband Sam, have 3 amazing children, 6 incredible grandchildren, a fulfilling career and volunteer work that supports my WHY –

Thank you, Bryan, for encouraging me to reflect on and define my WHY. As I look to the future, I realize that serving as the Executive Director of the Parentis Foundation, launching the Experience Corps intergenerational literacy program, and serving others in my community supports my humanitarian and philanthropic passions: Youth development, senior advocacy, and a lifelong pursuit to inspire others to reach their full potential through service above self.

I am forever grateful for the mentors in my life that have been my champions and my guides. Each day, I strive to pay it forward by inspiring others to achieve their full potential regardless of life circumstances that create their unique twists and turns. We all should be challenged with discovering our WHY. “WHY is the thing that inspires us and inspires those around us.” – Simon Sinek

And if you were wondering, yes, I did finish my college education with a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Eastern Connecticut State University and continue to be a Lifelong Learner of all that is possible and inspiring in the world!

Janice Frechette-Artinger, Executive Director
Parentis Foundation