A social entrepreneur by Pat Williams

There’s a Name for You

By Pat Williams, (Chesapeake Member)

Are you the kind of person who feels injustice deeply and simply HAS to do something about it? Do you lead the way to solve a burning community problem? If your passion leads you to create a new non-profit organization, or a new company whose main mission is not making it rich, you are a “Social Entrepreneur.”

A social entrepreneur can work voluntarily, take an income, or create an entity with growing profitability.

Do you, like I do, get “the itch” to move on after mastering a job and performing it for few years?

I loved (most of) the kids in my Spanish and French classes. But eventually I became bored teaching foreign languages, so I “retired” at 34, and after a break, I moved seamlessly into the world of travel. Taking travel agent familiarization trips was glorious, and travel talk made great cocktail party conversation, but after 17 years I’d had enough.

I was ready to retire from that job too. A friend had brought an older lady, Miss Dorothy, to my office and asked me to send her on an exciting trip, because Dorothy had just lost her husband and was all alone. She was my mother’s age, and we had a mutual love of ballet.

Dorothy said to me, “Pat, look at me now. I can’t see very well and I can’t hear very well, and I can’t walk very well. What good am I now? Society just wants to throw me in the garbage.”

Those words broke my heart. At the same time my mom was across the country needed a little help, so I interviewed people who wanted a job, but I couldn’t find another “me” – someone who would help her and really treasure her.

So a refrain began to play in my head. Older folks are valuable. I need to find more “me’s” to care for them. I started dreaming of old folks reaching out to me. I just had to find a way – to create the organization that I envisioned. And so I did.

My husband named this new entity in honor of my mother, Grace, and we called it GraceFul Care. I was engaged with my agency 7 long days a week – and yet I never felt as if I were “working.” That creation, I learned from a professor at our local university, was performing social entrepreneurism.

While serving on the board of Leadership Fairfax, I was astounded that no one had ever thought of creating a special program to support older adults who were leaving full time work. These brilliant and talented men and women had high level skills to bring to community nonprofits. We just needed to forge the connections.

It took a year to convince the board, and then another year to create the Lifetime Leadership Program (LLP). While we are strengthening our nonprofits now, our LLP classmates have formed social bonds with each other-an unexpected bonus!

Approaching my 7th decade, I was getting “the itch” again. I was interested in exploring a mission-driven speaking career. I was delighted when my daughter related that her husband also had “the itch,” and that he might be interested in taking over GraceFul Care. And he did.

The other day someone asked me, “Pat, how’s retirement?” I said, “I have loved all the things I have done, yet there are still issues that break my heart. While I can bring a lifetime of experience into play, I challenge myself to master new skills to help me tackle these issues. I will never retire. There’s a name from people like us. We are Social Entrepreneurs.”

Pat Williams is the founder of GraceFul Care, which provides respite for family caregivers, continuing care for the elderly, aide to Alzheimer’s and hospice patients, and companionship to those who are homebound and lonely. Pat is also the author of Say the Right Thing.