My mother spent 20 years battling chronic depression. She was institutionalized more than a dozen times.
We were lucky. Because my father owned a business, he could provide the care she needed.
Not everyone is that lucky.
Today, depression affects 1 in 10 Americans and more than 300 million people worldwide. More than 80 percent of people with clinical-depression symptoms are not receiving treatment. That’s an alarming statistic, particularly when you consider that the number of people diagnosed with depression increases by about 20 percent a year.
The good news is that organizations like the Recovery Empowerment Network are doing impressive work that changes lives for people with mental illnesses.
Depression leads to other things. When my mother was depressed, she was lonely and her response was to drink. Had she had access to REN’s highly effective peer-support model, who knows what her life would have been like. REN’s program would have been great therapy for her.
I first learned about REN several years ago when I became their real estate broker. Today, I’m chair of the agency’s board of directors.
REN is my passion project, a concept I adapted by donating my services and two-thirds of my commission back to the agency after completing the purchase of a building REN had leased the previous three years.
I’d like to think that other members of the Valley’s real estate industry would consider a similar idea for other nonprofits doing great work.
My motivation comes from addressing the critical need for mental health services, resources and programs. Individuals facing those challenges need support and it’s much more difficult to raise money for them than for other causes.
With more than 21,000 Arizona-based nonprofit organizations registered with the IRS, according to the ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Innovation, there are plenty of options for other real estate professionals to turn a passion project into a financial benefit that pays dividends for the entire community.
I was raised from pretty good Midwestern stock. My father always told me that if “you don’t contribute more than you take out, you’re not worth much. Your placement in the world is not based on the house you own or the car drive.”
It’s a lesson I’ve passed on to my children with the hope they’ll do the same with theirs.
This may be something I’ll do once, perhaps twice, in my lifetime. But I really believe in what REN is doing and I can’t imagine there aren’t many others who feel the same about nonprofits they’re involved with.
Most of us will only have a couple of opportunities to make a passion project. When we see an opportunity like that, we should seize it.
Robert “Bo” Sederstrom is senior vice president at Kidder Mathews and chair of the Recovery Empowerment Board of Directors.
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