1. Family heritage – I can’t remember when my mom wasn’t knitting something for some charity. Taking clothes to the Assistance League Bargain Box. My dad was also busy with charities, and it was more subtle. He always said “Charity was not in the Phelps Family vocabulary, it was something I learned from your mom’s family!”
2. College “Hell Week” – We spent one day working in the neighborhood, doing heavy work for older people, also painting, doing whatever they wanted. After graduation, I joined the Santa Ana 20-30 Club which raised funds for various charities, usually child oriented.
3. Carl Karcher (Carl’s JR Restaurants) – I was Carl’s Controller from 1968 to 1972. In 1989, I called Carl and asked him to lunch. At lunch I thanked him for giving me a great confidence builder by promoting me to be his Controller. He said it was obvious to see that I was doing well, and it is now time to “leave the log pile higher than you found it!” I told him this was my new life motto!
4. In Mom’s Memory – My mom had been a volunteer supporting the Florence Crittenton auxiliary in Fullerton, California. She also knitted Christmas stockings for them for several decades. When she passed away in 1990, I pondered, “Where can I volunteer in her memory?” In 1991, I joined the board of directors of Crittenton Services of Southern California in Fullerton, California. (In 2009, after returning to Southern California, I rejoined the board of Crittenton Services of Southern California)
5. The San Miguel Resource Center – In 1994, Mikey, my wife, and I moved to Telluride, Colorado, to live a new life style in a small ski town. In 1996, I was asked to join the board of the San Miguel Resource Center, our county’s Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Center. Initially I was the treasurer, then president and then past-president, until we moved away in 2007. Men would ask me why was I involved in a “women’s organization,” I would reply, “It is a societal problem, not a gender problem, and we all need to get into solution to solve it!” It was about this time I would also say, “During my life I have done and said things that were inappropriate! I need to grow, I need to pay back!”
6. The National Crittenton Foundation – In the fall of 2001 I was asked to join the board of The National Crittenton Foundation (TNCF), because they were looking for someone with accounting/financial skills. It sounded like a good way to “build the log pile,” and continue to pay back, and learn! TNCF today is very different than where it was in 2001! Today, we are recognized as a national organization advocating for girls and young ladies! Little did I know this is where I would learn WHY this was my passion! I learned that women and girls are treated differently than men and boys. They don’t have the same opportunities, they aren’t treated or paid equally. As a society we have come a long way from the 60’s, but still have a long way to go. I also learned that when you support a young lady stand on her own, you are supporting her, her children, her friends, parents, partner and siblings, a very wide ripple affect☺. When you support a boy, it can help him, but a much smaller ripple, because he is less likely to share it ☹. I have seen repeatedly that a woman is more likely to pay it forward!
My biggest thrill is seeing a young girl who is lost, feels betrayed by society, doesn’t know where to turn, slowly begin to listen, believe in herself, begin growing to her potential, then share and help her friends! Suddenly you can see the “light in her eyes!”
James S. Phelps