Reflecting on our annual firm-wide Community Day last week, I am reminded of a saying we have here at GHJ: “Serving the nonprofit community is not just what we do; it is who we are.” Community service is a central part of the Firm’s identity, and we promote this company culture throughout our organization by contributing to various local charities (and not just once a year for Community Day). This commitment to serve is one of the reasons I decided to join GHJ back in 2007 because giving back to the less fortunate has always been an important part of my life and something I try to participate in regularly. My experience volunteering last week at the LA Food Bank made me think of a story from my time in the Air Force.
I had just turned 20 when I first stepped foot in Nakhon Phanom (NKP), Thailand. I spent the first 14 years of my life in New York and the next four in Los Angeles before I joined the Air Force. Having been raised on both coasts, I thought I was quite worldly. In reality, the only other trips I had ever taken out of the country were a day trip to Tijuana, Mexico, and six months in Amarillo, TX, for basic training. (Well, it seemed another country to me.)
I was assigned to the Armed Forces Thailand Network (AFTN) working as a disc jockey on AFTN 770 and a newscaster and announcer on the television station. In addition to my DJ duties, I was also put in charge of production at the radio station, which meant creating public service spots and “commercials,” such as ads for the Base Exchange, which were aired during the shows.
One of my fondest memories of my year at NKP was staying on the air for 53½ hours straight during the “Texts for Tots” marathon. During that time, we raised almost $8,500 from the men and women on the base. It was used to buy three libraries – each consisting of 30 books – for each of the 77 school districts in Northeastern Thailand. The marathon ended with a beauty contest, dance performances by some of the local schoolchildren and singing and dancing by the staff of AFTN 770, all of whom stayed awake for over 2.2 days.
I was reassigned to Norton Air Force Base in San Bernardino, CA, after I returned from Thailand. Norton was only one hour from my home in Los Angeles, so it was a nice assignment for transition back to civilian life in 1970. I tried to find a job in radio after my discharge but was drawn back to my first love: entertainment. I was in a rock ‘n’ roll band before I joined the Air Force and ended up back in the music business when I got out.
That lasted a few years until I realized that you need to make money to live; and to make money, you need to get a job. Eventually, I went back to school (thanks to the G.I. Bill) and became a CPA and an attorney. Whatever I’ve accomplished since 1969, my year at NKP was one of the most fun and fulfilling experiences of my life. While hosting fundraisers and having the chance to give back to the community was only a small part of my time there, it is an experience that has stayed with me.
Serving the community over the years – not just in Thailand – has had a profound impact on my life. I hope this sentiment can inspire others to take a greater interest in volunteering for a nonprofit in need. At GHJ we have made giving back an integral part of our culture, and I feel privileged to be a part of it. Serving nonprofits is truly not just what we do. It is who we are.