Don and Pat - In Stockholm

A few months ago, I received an email from the former CEO of a company I used to work for in America. I was pleasantly surprised that he and his wife wanted to visit my family in Stockholm. It had been a long time since we last saw one another although we have kept in contact. As fate would have it, we were in town during their short weekend stay.

The visit began at our place in the late afternoon where they had a chance to meet our children and have a brief chat with us on the terrace. It was a very hot day for Stockholm although Don and Pat liked it as it wasn’t the extreme heat and humidity that they experience in east coast USA . After kissing our children goodnight, we took them to a popular outdoor bar for a welcome drink and then headed to one of our favorite restaurants.

The conversation throughout the night was diverse and lively and touched on many facets of American and European life including the disheartening fact that not enough Americans travel abroad. With less than 25% of us having passports, I’m hopeful that these grim statistics will begin to improve with the next generation. It was inspiring to hear about their long marriage, their vacations throughout the world and learn from each other on a variety of interesting subjects.

What I didn’t tell Don that night was that working with him at America’s Charities (AC) was the most enjoyable 4 working years of my decade in Manhattan. Don is the former President and CEO (retired last year) of this fine organization that now raises over 30 million dollars for 100+ charities in the area of workplace giving. He was the first employee and worked at AC for 22 years.

Working for America’s Charities was my first foray in the non-profit arena and I explored numerous options before deciding to join the AC Team. I couldn’t have made a better choice!

Overall, my colleagues were friendly, caring and capable and the business was fun and expanding rapidly.  Don's leadership never failed to impress me and he led the company in a fair and enjoyable way. In addition, I had a great boss (Edwin) who played a vital role in motivating the sales team and me to do our best. That team and the company in general had strong success during my 4 years.

In my sales role, I learned about philanthropy, met prominent people in the industry and gained a wealth of knowledge on giving in general. That education has been invaluable in running a successful youth basketball program for 6 years in Sweden, inspiring individuals on giving and being a fundraising consultant.

Like most companies, we had our challenging times including the shock that everyone had to deal with on the tragic day of September 11, 2001 - I was in NYC that day. I was proud of how top management, my colleagues, our clients and many of our charities coped with and responded to the aftermath of that horrible tragedy.

One of our clients was in the south tower that morning although thankfully most survived including my primary contact. Sadly, the head of Human Resources (a true hero that day) never made it out as she made sure all employees and guests went first.

My story about what I experienced on 9/11 is at the link below:

Done and Pat flew back to the USA after their Stockholm visit. Sweden was the last stop on a five week European journey. It warms my heart that they made the effort to come see my family. Next time, we hope to visit them on their turf although it probably won’t happen until our young kids are a bit older.

It was a wonderful night! Thanks Don and Pat.

Happy Gswede Sunday!

A view from above in sunny Florida, USA.

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