Each season of Just Stories has a different eight-episode theme. The show kicks off with “Recycled Dreams,” featuring eight CEOs who have woven giving back into their business strategies.
These episodes will give you a blueprint for doing the same in the most efficient way possible, which is making their learnings your reality.
Solutions to problems tackled on this episode:
You need some motivation to launch a giving program, this will do it!
2. Your team at work wants to do a team building activity.
3. You want to find a worthy cause, but aren’t sure where to begin?
This episode was very special for me as I got to spend an hour with one of my favorite people CEO Dan Shufelt of Arizona Helping Hands. Dan is truly one of the most selfless people I have ever met and he not only inspired me to launch a huge giving campaign personally, but tells some amazing stories and gives all the listener such an insight into why your business needs to be involved in an organization like Dan’s.
Season 1 of the podcast is titled “Recycled Dreams” because each episode focuses on CEO’s who have utilized giving back as a part of their main business strategy. The purpose is to use the art of story telling to motivate our business communities into giving back more because when you do, everybody wins!
Be sure to subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and never miss an episode.
Brett Thornton: All right, welcome back to another episode of just stories with BT. This eight-part season is all around recycled dreams, you know, which is focusing on companies and people and CEOs who have used, giving back as part of their business strategy. So, we’ve talked to some CEOs who, you know, are involved with all those different types of philanthropy, then we’ve talked to some companies who are on the receiving end of that, which is another case today with Dan. So, we’ve got Dan shoe felt the CEO of Arizona helping hands who changed my life in so many different ways. And I haven’t been able to connect with him much in the last year. So I’m really excited to talk today. So welcome to the episode.
Dan Shufelt: Thank you, Brett. It’s a pleasure to be topic is.
Brett Thornton: Absolutely. So, the way we’re going to kick off this podcast episode is a little different from ones you may have been on before because I know you’re always on the new, you’re always getting talked to you because of the amazing things Arizona helping him does. And so instead of me asking you to tell the audience about yourself and your history, I’m going to do it for you. Okay, that way, you know, we can we know you don’t want some 20 minute rant or tangent, which you wouldn’t do anyways, but I’ll just do it for you. Okay. And then after that we can dive in. And I really want people to get to know the person behind the CEO and then have a chance to talk about why businesses need to start giving back they are not doing it already. Sounds good.
Dan Shufelt: Sounds like a great plan.
Brett Thornton: Alright, everybody. So here we go. This is Dan. So he was born and raised in Rochester, New York. He was child number five out of eight, which I want to get back to and talk to you about that. Government’s no mow and lawns for his first job even worked at a pool shop, you know, so that that that that’s maybe where his love for accounting came about. So he ended up going to college in St. JOHN Fisher University where he got his BS in accounting. After that, he ended up moving out to Arizona in 1979, to work at a small tax firm. And over the next few years, he’d be a CPA for three different firms until he landed an awesome job, being a real estate trust advisor a running real estate trust. And during this time, he met Cheryl, his amazing wife, they had two kids. And now three grandchildren, which is amazing. Congratulations, in 2000 was a big year for him because that’s when he met Kathy Donaldson who’s the we started Arizona helping hands and he became a member of the board and for 15 years served on the board up until 2014 when he stepped in as the temporary CEO just to help out but obviously it was never temporary. And it became his life’s mission in life’s passion. So for the last seven years, we have been the CEO of Arizona helping hands, which helps so many kids in foster care in the Arizona area. It’s unbelievable. And now here we are in 2021. And you’re on the juice stories podcast. But what.
I’ve reached the pinnacle Brett.
Brett Thornton: Yeah. Or are you or you’re going down? I don’t know which way.
Dan Shufelt: Right?
Brett Thornton: So before we get to this, though, I’ve got to know I mean, what was that like being child number five on heat?
Dan Shufelt: So you know, yeah, I grew up I was blessed. I grew up in a really loving family with two parents were very involved. And, you know, we’re our mentors are examples. And, you know, my parents it was such a blessing to be part of this home environment. Yeah, eight kids, eight kids, there’s a whole lot of noise going on with eight kids in the household, those eight kids are spread out over 20 years. So there’s a huge age range. You know, for my, oldest sister to my baby brother. And, you know, being number five out of eight I was Yeah, I always used to joke with my mom who’s both my parents are now deceased. But I always used to joke with my mom that she’s the source of all my deep psychological problems because I was the Forgotten child number five, yeah, as number five I was, you know, born right before the second girl so she, you know, the tension was always on my younger sister that the little girl in the family and but you know, having that environment, you know, just in a family atmosphere. My dad was a hard working guy who, you know, was a blue collar worker and just trying to keep things together for his family. And yeah, we didn’t have to do all the extras that kids so often have these days. We just we just got by, and you know, things like, you know, playing card games and just hanging out as a family and having that that unit. What as I say it was really a blessing.
Brett Thornton: That’s awesome. Yeah, I have a good friend named Scott Higgins and he, I used to work with him and sleep train years ago. And he was the last of nine kids.
Dan Shufelt: Oh, wow.
Brett Thornton: And it’s funny because the reason I found that out was that we were at a restaurant one day and he’s going to hate me for telling the story. We were out of like a nightmare. restaurant with a bunch of people. And the upstairs came out and he just started grabbing stuff. Like as if he was like starving to death or something. I remember looking at him like, dude, you have plenty of food good to go around here, like he’s not going to run out. And I said something to him. He’s like, Oh, I’m so sorry, man, bad habit. He’s like, I was the last of nine kids. So he’s like, if you didn’t get in there and grab, like, you may not eat, you know. And so all these years later accessible guy. And he’s still like, you know, couldn’t shake it, which is really funny.
Dan Shufelt: Got to exert your influence, right?
Brett Thornton: Yes. So to give a little backstory, imagine you’re, you know, you’re on an elevator, you know, it’s a big elevator. Let’s say you’re in Dubai. And when these crazy buildings, right, and you get the top points and walks in, you meet them. Hey, I’m the CEO of Arizona helping and so I’m asking, Hey, what is it? How do you sum up Arizona helping hands and you got about 60 seconds, right? Come down elevator. So what how would you sum it up for the audience who doesn’t know about your organization,
Dan Shufelt: Arizona, helping hands is the largest provider of basic needs to children in Arizona’s foster care system. So, everything from beds and cribs and clothing and diapers to personal care packages to celebrating birthdays for children in foster care whose birthdays oftentimes just due to circumstances come and go unknown. And uncelebrated. We’re trying to raise those kids up, we’re trying to give them hope. And most importantly, we’re trying to give them those basic needs that will fill their, their lives with, you know, some substance, some safety, some comfort, just having your own bed to sleep on. Right? How important is that, especially to children who have been victims of abuse and neglect. So Arizona is helping us does all those things, and so much more to help children in foster care.
Brett Thornton: Yeah, absolutely. I know that, you know, we’ll go into our history a little bit later. But I know I was always just, you know, so inspired when we would go into your, office in the facility, because every time we’re there, there’s a different company, there are different people that were back in that room making these personal, happy birthday cards, their graduation, but like, everything you do was so personal to the kids, it wasn’t just Hey, I’m going to give them a backpack, it’s no, I’m going to give them a bag, and then I’m going to find out what they do. And then I’m going to fill it with cool stuff and make them feel, you know, special and that someone out there cares for them and sees their work and their value. So that’s always been a part of it, that that I’ve always felt this kind of next level for what you got to do.
Dan Shufelt: Yeah, you know, especially in these days of COVID. You know, we’ve had some separation from our clients, right? There was, there was a time where we were, you know, putting items out on the back parking lot and say, you know, this is your stuff, come pick it up. You know, we were trying to keep our team safe, our small team safe and still help families however we could, as we come back, right, as society starts to recover from this horrible pandemic, hopefully, in a much greater way. As we move forward. We’re now trying to try to figure out how we can add value to every client interaction. So if you pulled up to our warehouse today, in the back now there’s this sign up that says, you know, we know that you have requested clothing and diapers and a bed and a crib. But do you need school supplies for your children who are now going back to in person learning? Do you need diaper extra diapers for the baby that you just received? Yeah, we received a wonderful donation of Patagonia jackets and outerwear. So, can these things help your family? And how can we make a bigger difference in the lives of these kids, that’s what we’re trying to do every day is to make the biggest impact that we can on a child’s life. And, yeah, when you meet these kids, when you talk to these parents and hear the stories, you know, you just get to get to sit back and say, you know, thank you, God that, you know, my situation is different than that, you know, my kids are safe and loved. But you always have to think outside of that. And, you know, think about those other kids who don’t have those same blessings..
Brett Thornton: No, absolutely and I’m glad you mentioned that, because you said when you sit back and hear their stories, because, you know, they come in and you hear a lot of stories, you know, and that’s obviously the premise of this podcast is you know, getting to know you getting to know the organization getting to get some backstory, and I love to do that from stories, the best way that I learned and kind of absorb information and this podcast is going to get deep and emotional. I know it based on the content. So before we do that, I want to ease into a story here that’s lighter, right. So think back, right could be any time in your career CPA, you know, once you took over, maybe the last seven years in Arizona, but Arizona helping hands but think about a story that you love to tell that was just really funny or entertaining, something that goes around the office or whatever.
Dan Shufelt: Well, you know, it’s interesting in the social media environment, right? You’re always trying to think about different ways that you can engage with an audience. So, You know, something that I think it’s kind of humorous when, when my wife and I, my younger daughter played in the marching band in high school, and my wife and I’m in the concession stand at the football games and used to interact with, you know, the kids selling them the popcorn and the, and the sodas and whatnot out of the out of the football game. Well, one of my daughter’s friends, I remember the first time and then it became kind of a regular habit, she went running up to the cat, the concession stand, and she said, hey, look, it’s Anderson Cooper. It became this this, you know, kind of joke, you know, that, that? The some of the kids in my daughter’s class would call me Anderson Cooper. I mean, I don’t know if you see the resemblance or not. But, you know, I went gray at 28. So yeah, I’ve been, I’ve had this, you know, character of distinction, I’m going to call it for many years. And you know, to have her however, you know, as a 16 year old, yeah, this is going back 10 years, say, you know, that’s who you look like. So a little while back, we decided we’d play off of that a little bit. And I picked up a pair of yellow black rimmed glasses. And we did a little video that’s, on our YouTube page of danderson Cooper. And the ridiculous and we with this specific topic, that that one video we did was talking about people during our holiday toy drive, who had the wisdom to donate, you know, literally machine gun tight toys to help children in foster care. And I was talking about how ridiculous it is that you know, these kids who are facing all these other challenges. You know, those types of guests were the things that were being donated to a children’s charity. You know, the Nerf gun that shirts shoot 32 bullets at a time. I understand. It’s the Nerf gun, but still, you know, what’s the mentality there and consider the other challenges and circumstances these kids face. It was truly ridiculous. So anyway, playing off of that, Anderson Cooper theme has been kind of interesting.
Brett Thornton: No, I love it. I love that for a day, Anderson Cooper, my new broadcast. I actually I have one of you, too, which was in I’m sure you remember this. But so years ago, we were doing a given event in your in your warehouse, you know, we were donating a couple 100 matches back when I was living spaces with robots. And, and I had seen a video of some company that had set this world record for like falling on masters. And you remember,
Dan Shufelt: Oh, absolutely.
Dan Shufelt: I knew review video. And I just I had in my head like, at some point, I’m doing this, you know. And I remember we had brought in all these mattresses, and they were all in the bag. And they’re all twin size. And so, we lined them up with everyone who had volunteered to help that day. I don’t know how many people but a lot of people, and we made ourselves like a long Domino line. And every time you fall, you’d knock in the next person. And we all just collapse down. I had that video somewhere. It’s really funny too, because you would like a lot you’d like yell out really loud. You fall down? Oh, is that thing? So good?
Dan Shufelt: That’s a great memory.
Brett Thornton: Oh, man. So Alright, so as a CEO, of a big company, and nonprofit, whatever it is, you know, we don’t wait every time. Right? And we struggle and we fail. And we get back up. You know, and I’d love to hear from you know, like, what’s the story of a time in your career where you fail? You know? And, and then, you know, how did you get out? or how did you get through it?
Dan Shufelt: I’m going to take you this story, which I think ties into this whole podcast concept, right? So, if you asked me, even eight years ago, what my biggest fear was, I would have told you it was public speaking. I would have told you that or yep, public speaking was a much bigger fear for me then even die, right? I remember as a kid in high school, you know, breaking out in a cold sweat if I had to, you know, give a presentation from my class. Even as a professional CPA, you know, getting up in front of people and talking with something that put the put the fear of God in me. I mean, I was literally a basket case over circumstances where I had to talk in front of other people. And, you know, so taking that personality and converting it into a CEO who’s supposed to be the spokesperson for you know, a charity and supposed to be able to do things like this podcast and, you know, television interviews and videos and whatnot, is an entire life change. And, you know, I thought back A lot of times about how different my life is today than what it used to be. And I, you know, I truly believe that it’s because a yo mattress was lit, there was a passion that was kind of uncovered. And, you know, meeting these families, seeing these children, understanding the impact that we have in their lives has changed. You know, it’s been 182, he changed from this guy who, you know, was fearful to talk to his teammates, and in even a business setting to somebody now who you have to rip the microphone out of my hand, if you’re giving it to me, because I got stories to tell, and I got things to say, I’ve got it, you know, I found something that is really, really lit me up. And, you know, I’ve got story to tell.
Brett Thornton: Yeah, no, I love it. So do you think that passion, you know, for helping these kids, you know, is that what drove you past your fear of public speaking? Do you just kind of say, like, you know, what, I know, I’m scared, I’m nervous or whatever. But like, the alternative is what that I don’t do it. I don’t help the kids, or how did that come about?
Dan Shufelt: Yeah. So you know, it was really just, I think, understanding, as I said that, then I have a story to tell that there’s an importance to sharing the work that we do, and talking about the people and the kids that we’re helping every day. And it’s, it was not a conscious decision. Right. It was just, you know, people would start asking me, you know, what are you doing? Why are you doing it? How are you doing it? What is this all about? And, you know, I had those answers. I knew what I wanted to say, I knew, you know, again, those stories to share, and knew the importance of it. meeting these families and kids who have been put in horrible circumstances that really need our helping hands.
Brett Thornton : Yeah, what were, can you think of one or two stories from early on, you know, when you, you know, when you’re in this temporary CEO phase, and you’re like, obviously, I’m just helping out for a while, you know, like, what were some of the stories of the people who came in that, created you to, you know, have that passion, where you’re like, Hey, I can’t do anything else.
Dan Shufelt: Yeah, so Brett. Yeah, I know, I’ve shared it with you in the past. But, you know, I’m not a deeply religious person. But yeah, you know, I know that there are forces bigger than us. And, you know, in my world, the way I refer to it, is that I don’t believe that there are coincidences. I think that, you know, when you’re doing the right thing, for the right reason, pieces fall into place, and as good happens out of that. So, you know, as I said, you know, going way back in time to 2013, 2014, we were in this place where we, we shifted our mission to help children in foster care. I learned from you, from friends of mine that we had reached out to that Arizona was in crisis in its foster care system, that supports for these kids were not available. And a friend of mine that I’d worked in other charitable activities with, pointed out to me she said, there’s no place in the state of Arizona, where a grandparent like myself, who, you know, just got the call saying, hey, Grandpa, your daughter is in custody, you know, she was cooking meth in the oven, and now she’s in custody. Your children are nouns, words of the state, they’ve been moved to the department of child safety in Arizona, and they’re here in our office. What do you want us to do? Grandpa? You, do you want us to find a foster home? Or two or three foster homes that we could split these kids up into? Or do you have another alternative? So grandpa’s going to say, I believe most grandparents I’ve met would say, bring them to me, I’m going to give them hope and safety, I’m going to make sure they’re loved and supported. But what happens if Grappa is living on Social Security, and doesn’t have the means to even go buy a bed for that child to sleep on something as simple as that, even buy clothing and diapers and all the other things that go into raising a child. So, we shifted our mission in 2013, to help those kids understanding that there was that void, that nobody is there to do it. And again, going back in time, since I felt a responsibility since I was the person who kind of shifted us towards that mission in that objective. And I started volunteering a little bit more time here. And I started meeting some of those folks that were helping. And I can point to a day of very specific day in the summer of 2014, where there were two connections that have and right after each other, that were not a coincidence. And, you know, that was really it was literally that night I went home and I said to my wife, you know, hey, Cheryl I am, a CPA, I have a little practice, I run a real estate trust. But you know, something’s really drawn me here. And, you know, I’m going to offer my time to the board is until we can find somebody who can really lead this thing forward, because there’s a need. So, on that specific day, I met a lady. I refer to her as Gigi, because she was a great grandmother. And Gigi, when I met her was 74 years old. She was, you know, had some physical issues, she was a little bit frail. She came to us because she was now the 24, seven parents to her four great granddaughters. Think about it, right, four great granddaughters. So 7, 9,12, and 14 years old. Think about adding four kids to your life as a 24 seven caregiver in a moment. So, you know, back at that point, in time, before we had started to really connect with cute community and some businesses who have been so generous to us, we were providing recycled mattresses to the foster families that we worked with. So a charity here in town, we take away the old mattress when they delivered a new one, and, you know, quote, unquote, sanitize it, and wrap it. This is pre bedbug days, and everything else. And, you know, those were the units that we were giving out to Gigi, and to others. And Gigi, after we were while we were loading up that truck with those four mattresses and minimal supplies back then she grabbed me in a bear hug. And she said, Dan, you just don’t realize how important this this service is, to me and my family. She said these girls have been you know, fighting over the sofa and sleeping on the floor. You know, I haven’t had a bad night to myself, and to have their own place to sleep. That alone gives these girls a little bit of dignity, you know, gives me a little bit of sanity perhaps. But, you know, it makes my family a little more whole. Gigi said to me, she said, you know, I grew up in, in the Midwest, and as a young girl, you know, my mom died, my dad had been gone. But you know, here we were me and my siblings, we were orphans. She said after that happened, that my siblings and I there were five of us were split up, we’re scattered like the wind, one went out to an out of town uncle and other one went to church friend, you, she’s at I have of those five siblings, there’s three of them, I don’t know I’ve never connected with she said, I’m not going to let that happen to these girls. She said, my health is gone. You know, physically, I can’t keep up with these kids emotionally, I’m a wreck. Think of dealing with hormones of you know, for young tweens and others who are, you know, coming in, coming of age, you know, financially. You know, at one point in time, I had a 401k You know, my whole life has been turned upside down. But she said I can point to one thing, she said, these girls are safe and loved. And they’re with me. And we are a family. And you guys are helping us, you know, keep that family together. And as I say that one moment, there was actually a second incidents that same day, but you know, to interact with those folks. And to hear the impact that something as simple as a bed can have on the life of a child was a game changer for me.
Brett Thornton: Yeah. Then I knew you’re going to give me I was ready, though. And I love it. Because, you know, you bring up something that is, I think so crucial. And in your story, which is, you know, we take so many different things for granted. In life, you know, so many of us who are blessed to have, you know, home zone roofs, overhead rooms, and all these things, but we think we really take for granted, what a master is really mean. Some because if you’ve always had one, then you know you don’t think of it in that terms. You just think of it as hey, my bed is where I sleep, you know, but if you’ve gone in time in your life without one, you think about it a whole different way. Because not only is sleep so vital to us from a health perspective, but sleep is you know, a mattress in a bed is really a sanctuary. You know, it’s a place where you, it’s your refuge, it’s your space, it’s your thing. And so, you know, when you tell those stories, you know, I just, It breaks my heart, you know, I mean You know, obviously having two kids, you know, thinking about, you know, what would happen to these kids, you know, my dad 74. So that story resonates with me, you know, because that’s his age now. And I think of how much my parents helped me, you know, already. But, you know, I think at the end of the day, you know, the key element here is that there is just so much need. And so, you know, as you think about Arizona helping hands and what you guys have kind of done, you know, was there a moment, or a story that you can think of, where you kind of looked around, and we’re like, wow, like, this is growing, you know, like we’re having, you know, I know, it’s hard to say success, because it’s, you know, what success means helping someone in a horrible position, you know, so I get it from that perspective, but just from an the side of it growing and becoming something more than you may have thought.
Dan Shufelt: I mean, that happens every day breath. Yeah, when we look at the number of children whose lives have been impacted by the work that we’ve done, it’s, it’s staggering. We have now provided over 17,000. Think about that number. It’s scary 17,000 children in our state’s foster care system with a better crib. Since we started doing this in the summer of 2013. You know, every day, we’re providing birthday gifts to children in the foster care system, every day, on average, even during the pandemic last year, we provided over every single day last year, we provided eight children with a birthday package. And these are kids who have, you know, many of these children have never celebrated their own birthday. You know, they might be living in a group home environment. And yeah, you know, the group home will have their little August birthday party on August 2. But what happens on the 23rd when your birthday rolls around? Nothing. So, you know, that the, the numbers are phenomenal, you know, I’m an amateur but writer, I write a blog, and I try to share some stories and some, you know, impact pieces, and the work that we do. And you know, one of the stories that I wrote a while back was the Jerry Lewis, I refer to it as the Jerry Lewis phenomena. Jerry Lewis, when he used to do his Muscular Dystrophy telephones, every Labor Day weekend would finish his telethon by saying, I don’t want to be here next year. I don’t want to have to do this telethon. I don’t want there to be children who suffer from muscular dystrophy, I say the same thing, right, I’d love to think that our foster care system, and children in foster care at one point in time could be, you know, could be a non issue could be something that nobody cared, you know, nobody needs to worry about. But you know, look at our society, look at the challenges that we face, look at the, you know, the substance abuse issues and everything else that goes into play. Unfortunately, I don’t think that that’s in the cards for our society, I think that you know, there always be children in foster care. There always be children that need our helping hands. And, you know, our objective, our goal is to do everything we can for those kids who need us.
Brett Thornton: Yeah, absolutely. You know, I love that you brought up you know, earlier about you don’t believe in coincidence, right, these things happen. And I think that holds true with how we met, you know, which was, I, you know, I’d had this idea about doing a buy one give one program, actually, it was actually after listening to a podcast. So I was listening to Guy razzes podcast called how I built this, which is on NPR, awesome Podcast, where he talks to, you know, CEOs and people that have been really successful. And he kind of gets their whole backstory. And he was talking to the guy who started in TOMS shoes. And so just just go into the whole backstory of how he started it and how it came about and all these kinds of things. And I remember thinking to myself, like, yeah, this would be a cool to do for an event for like a sales event for bed. Instead of putting them on sale, we do a given event. And, and it was all just kind of in theory. And, you know, I remember talking to, you know, my boss at the time and the CEO at living spaces have this idea. And you know, and Grover Lewis was very giving guy you know, he’s very private about it, but he’s very, does a ton of philanthropy and, was like, yeah, let’s, try it. Let’s do it. Okay, so I remember I reached out to my friend, Gina Davis, who worked for tickets a dream up in Sacramento, and I said, Hey, do you happen to know anyone in Arizona? And she’s just like, yeah, there’s this great organization down there’s a helping hands, you know, hey, here’s the number this guy Danny and that was it was like, just maybe three minutes, you know, got this number. I’m like, okay, and I remember calling you this out of the blue and no idea who it was. And I was like, Yeah, I was thinking about doing this. And would it help if we, you know, donated some mattresses and I remember you, you literally freaked out, you know, you have no idea I did. It would be all this stuff and I’m thinking myself, like, it’s just, you know, maybe a couple 100 mattresses, you know, I just didn’t think about it as that it was going to be this big deal. Because what I didn’t know at the time was that, you know, mattresses made up such a huge portion of the money that your nonprofit had to spend, you know, because, you know, you’re getting all these different items. And, you know, some of them don’t cost as much or some things get donated, but the mattresses because at some point, you know, to, your point in your story earlier, you switched over to saying, Hey, we need to provide people new mattresses, you know, we don’t want to be giving people recycled stuff or bedbug infested stuff, like, so you had to buy them, but you’re buying them wholesale, and they’re still costing you and whatever, 150 bucks a pop. And so just to get, you know, and you were doing 2020 500 a year, I mean, that’s taking enormous amount of money. So I didn’t know all that at the time. But you know, just an idea. But like you said, it just all happened to work out. And, I think that, you know, the lesson that I learned, and then I want to ask you about this specifically is, you know, so we ran an event. And typically in sales, you know, you run these events, and you run a sales event to drive traffic to useful. But instead of running a sales event, discounting the product, right, so you’re losing profitability, because you got to discount the product. You know, we ran the buy one, get one, hey, come in, buy x, these different products, and then we’re going to donate to Arizona helping hands, you know, we got your guides, logo, we had a little video put into commercial. And lo and behold, in Arizona, right, we drove all this great traffic.You know, because so many people are touched by foster care, whether it’s someone in their family, someone that know themselves, like, or they just, they know, it’s an issue and they care about it. Or they don’t care at all, not that they don’t care, but they just that’s not a big thing in their life, but they still want it to come in and support because at the end of the day, they were going to come by a bed anyway. So now it just became this other thing where Hey, I’m going to buy this other, I’m going to buy this mattress anyways. But now because of that, hey, I feel great about my purchase, because I know it’s going to go to a foster kid, you know. And what we discovered real quick was that we were driving the same amount of traffic, as we would when we had these big discounts, or the big sales. And, and this is, you know, whatever, four years ago, and I think, personally, from what I’m seeing is, I think this is only going to continue to grow, you know, because Millennials are taking over the major buying force, you know, for a lot of markets, they’re 30, 35, they’re getting careers, they have jobs, they want to get nice things. And it’s something that’s very important for younger generation who’s coming into these roles, is that they’re working with companies who do give back. And they do help, whether it’s the planet or foster care, or whatever the situation is, they want to know, is there philanthropy involved? And so, you know, as you’ve been doing this now, for as the CEO the last seven years, how have you seen that evolve?
Dan Shufelt: Yeah, great question. So I’m going to take you back again, to a little bit history lesson first. You know, my becoming involved in charitable causes was, a push from a managing partner at the CPA firm I worked for many years ago, who walked into management meeting one week and said, Yeah, we’re not going to talk about the normal things. And we’re not going to talk about Billings and taxes and all that kind of kind of stuff. We’re going to talk about that the fact that our community profit or our business, our livelihood comes from our community. So each of us sitting in this room has a responsibility to share to give back to do something. He said, You know, I don’t care what it is, I don’t care if it’s animals, if it’s senior citizens, if it’s kids in Africa, if it’s children in foster care, go find something and get involved. And yeah, that was that was my petition to charitable activities. Yeah, I was just doing my job, going to work doing my thing. And then somebody said, Hey, you know, wake up and think about the fact that, you know, you wouldn’t be getting a paycheck if your community wasn’t giving you business. And therefore, you have an obligation to pay it back, to pay it forward to, you know, to do something to make our community stronger. Each of us has that obligation. So as I in this role is I’ve had the opportunity to connect with Brett and you know, others who have that heart and who understand how important social responsibility is at a business level. It’s been, so rewarding, so gratifying to, you know, partner up with companies who want to donate product, who want to volunteer time who want to do collection drives, you know, all these opportunities to, you know, truly demonstrate that you are part of something bigger, that there is an obligation to give back and to do more and that a job is much more than a paycheck. And, you know, I think all of us have to take that to heart and to Figure out how, each of us can play a bigger role in our community. And, again, share those blessings that we have that we’ve worked for and that we’ve accumulated. But you know, don’t think about necessarily, you know, the next toy that you need to buy for your child, I’ve got a package of diapers for a child in foster care. There’s so many ways that everybody can do something to make a difference.
Brett Thornton: Yeah. And I think, you know, and I, because I’ve seen it firsthand, you know, for everyone out there, who has a team, you’ve got a company, you got a team, I don’t care what role you’re in. There’s something unmistakable that happens when you get your team involved in the giving. So you know, you guys have set up this really cool little corporate office where, you know, companies come in and bring in their teams, leadership teams, you know, corporate teams, whatever, to do these kind of different events. So tell me a little bit about that. What do they do when they come in? Generally?
Dan Shufelt: Yeah, well, so you know, first of all, obviously, COVID changed all that. Yeah. And really put some significant burdens on our organization, we are very much a volunteer driven organization, we utilized over 14,000 hours of volunteer time in 2019. In 2020, that number was slashed, you know, it was less than half that number. And we still had the same obligations to fill in our in our clients lives. So, you know, COVID has been a really tough burden to overcome as an organization. But you know, that we now hopefully, with, you know, the vaccine coming online, all other progress being made, we’re hoping that, you know, we’ll return to a point in time where we can engage more with corporations, as of right now, we are allowing small corporate groups to come in and to yell, engage with us to do service products, projects, and just doing everything we can to teach people, to inform them to educate them about the needs and simple ways that they can help out. So a typical volunteer engagement for us is to have you know, a number of people from an organization come in, we’ll give them a little orientation about who we are, why we’re here, you know, the difference that we make in everyday children’s lives, and then we’ll put them to work. And that work can consist of, you know, going through a ban of donated clothing, and removing price tags that have because the product has been sent to us from, you know, a major retailer. And you know, we don’t want anybody to take those things back to the store. So we removed the price tags, and we have to fold and sort and organize and put them out on the shelves. And, you know, the bottom line in there is that those articles of clothing might be the second wardrobe that that child has, having come into foster care with nothing but the clothes on their backs. So you know that that simple effort, having that energy from a group of volunteers that can make it all happen, and then our birthday program coming back to that, you know, our birthday program is our most intensive volunteer engagement. So we receive a sheet of paper that says that little Joey is turning three and Joey likes trains, our volunteers will go shop among our donated toys, and try and find the perfect gift for three year old Joey. And of course, when they run across the Thomas the train set they know, you know, another no coincidence is happening. Right? Joey said he wanted he likes trains, there’s the time as the train said, they’re going to take that that gift and gift, wrap it and put it in a decorated bag to let Joey know that his birthday is special. And every volunteer that we have will tell you that, you know, their heart is touched by knowing that they’ve played a role in letting Joey know that he’s loved and that his day is special. And that, you know, his circumstances might be a little bit different. But still, he’s a three year old boy and he should celebrate.
Brett Thornton: Absolutely. So, you know, I want to wrap up talking about hope. And, you know, there’s so many people, hopefully a lot of people listening and, you know, there’s not you know, even if it just touches one person, you know, the message that I want to convey to people is and you just because you just mentioned something about it, you know, but you know, whether it’s foster kids, whether it’s, you know, giving back to veterans in need, like it doesn’t matter what, what it is in my mind. There’s something about your inner currency that is so impacted when you’re doing something for others. You know, it’s something you can’t replicate, you can’t manufacture it because it’s real. And when you when you truly are doing something for the right reason you know, it has a way of making itself come back around, you know. And as I’ve been interviewing these people around this recycled dreams concept and his theory and the different CEOs and these different businesses, you know, this thing keeps coming back over and over and over again, which is people who suffer from depression and anxiety and all these different ailments, the thing that took them through, was they started giving back, they started putting others like instead of themselves, and just to kind of fill this void, and what did they find, like, Oh, my God, this became my saving grace, this became this new thing I had to do, because I realized that, you know, at the end of the day, you know, whether, you know, things don’t make you feel that way, possessions don’t make you feel that way. And when it comes to your, teams, and your you know, your employees and your companies, you know, we all have this, corporate DNA, you know, and the companies take on the lives of themselves. And I can tell you firsthand, you know, that one part of your corporate and company DNA is to give back, you know, it really changes the outlook, I think, on how people view their job. And then in turn, that’s going to always impact how they treat the consumers or their customers, right? and so tell us like, what’s a story from Arizona helping hands on one of these kids maybe from a long time ago, or something? What’s the story of hope you could tell us, or a story of someone who overcame, you know, based on some of this stuff, you have anything you can think of?
Dan Shufelt: Oh, I can tell you stories all day long Brett. But, you know, yeah, it comes down, as you said, you know, one of our lines is that we bring hope to children in foster care. You know, we bring hope in so many different ways. You know, providing a couple mattress, it’s a family a few weeks ago, he wrote is the foster parent wrote us note saying, those two little boys who received a brand new mattress asked when we got them set up, if they could go to bed early that night.They want to lay down their head and their very own bed, you know, something, again, that we all take for granted. We gave out a couple, bicycles to a family recently. And again, the comment that came back to us was every day when I pick the kids up from school, the first thing they asked me is that can they go ride their bike? You know, and I think I think of you know, that the stereotypical right, have been on a bicycle and the sense of freedom and joy that a bicycle gives you that these kids haven’t experienced, you know, talk about giving a child hope, giving a child safety. You know, that’s what we’re doing and why we’re here. And, and, you know, again, bring it back to where you were talking about for a business to really get that message driven home, that it’s the simple things that can, you know, can change the world. Our founder, Kathy Donaldson, formed this organization as a tribute to her sister Patty, who is dying of cancer at age 33. And Patty’s dying request was that Kathy go do one good deed a day. And, you know, it’s on the wall in our lobby out here, just do one good day today, go do something for somebody else. It doesn’t have to be anything. Yes, splashy, anything that, you know, it can be something so simple. It can be something as I said earlier, just, you know, pick up an extra package of diapers when you’re at the store and donate it to a children’s charity. Just, you know, go on social media Facebook page, like Arizona, helping hands and share it with somebody and say, hey, check this out, this organization is doing something really cool. You know, unless we’re spreading the word and telling people about, you know, the good things that are happening. A lot of people ignore it. You know, it’s not within their line of vision. So, you know, just a new my word of encouragement is just to ask everybody to do something to think how, you know, simple steps can keep us going forward.
Brett Thornton: No, I love that. And last thing for you is just, you know, I think inherently, people are good. You know, and I think that inherently people, if given an opportunity, you know, like, want to do the right thing. They want to help people. I just think that a lot of times as a society, we tend to overthink and overanalyze things, and we make them bigger than the off, you know, and it’s going to be this whole ordeal and I got so much going on or whatever, you know, so Hhelp me Help people listening to take away that anxiety. Like, how easy is it to work with an organization like you what could a company do? That wouldn’t take a lot of time, but that would help.
Dan Shufelt: Yeah, so you know, interacting with companies we do it on every level, from, you know, having an opportunity to, you know, do podcast with the company to share, you know, what the state of the world is in foster care in Arizona and what, you know, one organization is trying to do to make a difference. You know, the public knowledge of these issues is really, you know, something we need to work at constantly trying to educate people about what’s going on, you know, from that, you know, we engage with companies who will do collection drives for us, who will, you know, be it, you know, as I say, we do everything for children. So via books, be it personal care items, be it bedding products, be it educational support, and back to school support, all those elements you have, it’s really easy to set up an Amazon wish list and say, you know, go buy a few things for kids in foster care, we’ll ship them right to Arizona helping hands, you know, from there, we do the corporate engagement with having companies come in and volunteer their time and energies to assist in our various programs. So you know, it, I think it’s really true that everyone can do something to help kids in foster care. That’s a line you mentioned the ticket to dream Foundation, they’re great friends of ours and supporter of ours, one of their lines is that not everyone can be a foster parent, you know, it takes, you know, a true dedication to step out and to open up your heart and your home to children who have been damaged and try and save them. And that’s why we have to support those foster parents. So not everyone can be a foster parent, but everyone can do something to help a foster child. And we provide those opportunities, and we look for those opportunities for individuals and businesses to engage and do just that
Brett Thornton : Yeah,man, thank you so much, Dan. You know, I think that, you know, my, to sum all that up, for anyone listening, want to put it put it this way. Because this is how Dan impacted my life when I got to see this firsthand and got to see some of the families picking up the beds. And as you said, you know, instead of thinking about giving as this big thing, you can boil it down to this, you know, you could easily put out a can in your corporate office with loose change, and save it for three months until you got 120 bucks, and that $120 would buy one mattress. Right? But that one mattress to Dan’s point is a kid who’s right now on the floor. Literally sleeping on the floor. Maybe never even had a bed right maybe going from home to home and now you found this foster parent right and you were the grandparent now and he’s and that one mattress can literally change a child’s life can change the value that they put on themselves can change the safety they feel at night for one bed for 120 bucks. So, my encouragement to the people listening is stop overthinking this. Can we give back in so many ways. It doesn’t have to be huge. And I think as people start to just do it, they realize like oh my god, I’m getting more of this than I gave you that’s how giving work. And at the end of the day, there’s amazing organizations like the ones who are really doing the work. Putting all the money back into the kids have seen it firsthand. So, if you’re interested look on Arizona Helping Hands on the website, you can connect with Dan. They do amazing stuff but there’s organizations like this throughout the country you know, so there’s no excuse like time start you know, helping any way we can. And so with that, I just want to thank you for coming on being vulnerable, being honest. And hopefully, you know, motivating some people to get involved with Foster. Express.
Dan Shufelt: Appreciate the opportunity and thanks for being you.
Brett Thornton: Next version I can be alright man. Appreciate it.
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