A chance invitation by a friend to attend a Life’s WORC gala over 20 years ago resulted in decades of life-changing experiences for Ed O’Donnell – and for those he has touched along the way.
In the late 1990s, Ed was fortunate to have enjoyed a successful career on Wall Street and found himself looking for ways to give back, not just in financial contributions, but to really make a difference. While he volunteered at other charities, he felt they were well-supported, and his efforts weren’t as impactful as he hoped. When a friend asked Ed and his wife Anne to join him at a Life’s WORC gala, he was inspired. The following year he was invited to return again, and at that point, Ed was convinced – he wanted to get involved, so he approached then Assistant Executive Director of Development Matt Zebatto that night, and the rest is history.
“I get so much more out of it than I put in,” said Ed, currently serving as Secretary of the Board of Directors. “It’s such a rewarding experience. I especially enjoy visiting the homes and bringing the other Board Members with me to visit the homes.” When he first joined the Board, a home visit wasn’t required for new members, but Ed encouraged them all to visit anyway, and to do so at least once a year. “It’s one thing to show up at meetings, get engaged, then go home and forget about it until the next meeting,” he says. “I like to keep myself engaged at least one time a day. I think, ‘What can I do today that will help things along even a little bit?’”
It’s this kind of dedication and commitment to Life’s WORC that has made Ed an invaluable resource over the years. “My mantra is: I love the people we serve; I love the people who serve the people we serve; and I have made Life’s WORC my life’s work,” he explained.
A successful businessman, husband, father, grandfather and soon-to-be great-grandfather, Ed is loved and respected by so many both within and outside of Life’s WORC. Whether it is a Board meeting, a special event, or even a small celebration at a residence, Ed makes the people we support and their well-being a priority. “Every time I visit a home, it affects me in such a way that I feel it for three days after,” he said. “It happens every time I go. It’s what keeps me going.”
As for any plans to retire, there are none in sight for Ed. However, this year he plans to step down from his role as Secretary to allow some of the newer members an opportunity to step up. “This is the strongest Board we have ever had,” he said. “I have been an officer just about every year I have been on the Board – I have worn all the hats – but I want to make room for others. We have some really terrific people who can move into these positions.”
Make no mistake, even if he isn’t a member of the Board’s Executive Team, that doesn’t mean Ed will be decreasing his commitment to Life’s WORC and the Family Center for Autism. He is currently focused on the scholarship fund for the FCA. “There is a small committee within Life’s WORC that is dedicated to the scholarship fund, and I represent the Board of Directors on the committee,” he explained. “Applications come in, and it breaks your heart to read these letters. We need to set up a way to continually fund this.” Ed shared the stories he has read from parents, single moms, families with multiple children on the autism spectrum who are desperately seeking programs and activities for their special needs children, but simply cannot afford the tuition. “They need help, and we need to find a way to keep the scholarship fund from running low.”
This is just one example of Ed’s passion, his commitment, and his efforts to ensure that the people we support are truly able to live their best lives, and their families are supported. We are so grateful that he accepted the invitation to the gala all of those years ago, and for his unwavering dedication to Life’s WORC ever since.
In honor of the 50th Anniversary of Life’s WORC, we will be sharing the stories, people and events that have made Life’s WORC the organization it is today, along with our goals and vision for the future. Thank you for celebrating with us!