(Focus Hope Press Release, Ferndale 115 News, May 15th 2012 edition)
After Frank O’Donnell retired from Focus Hope as budget manager, he wanted to find a place to volunteer. He called a few non-profits, but no one returned his calls. Apparently there wasn’t high demand for a retirement aged guy with an MBA degree. Finally he called Common Ground, spoke to CEO Tony Rothschild and has been volunteering three days a week in the finance department ever since.
For more than 12 years, O’Donnell has arrived at the agency’s administrative offices promptly at 9:30am on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays with his trusty companion Musetta (his seven year old Boston terrier). He does accounting related work and doesn’t mind it at all because as he says, “somebody has to do it and the agency has to keep up with its bills.”
What keeps him coming back? “I think this organization has some great programs and just does some great stuff,” he said. “The Sanctuary, the ASF program and the Street Outreach Program totally fascinate me. What they’re doing is very important and it’s very courageous for the staff to go out looking for runaways in the middle of the night.”
O’Donnell is very humble. But the fact is, he’s had a very interesting life. He went to seminary school but eventually realized the priesthood was not for him. In the 1970s he was the education director at the Michigan Credit Union League. In his early 50s, he decided to go back to school to get his master’s degree in Business Administration.
“I was out of the priesthood for eight or 10 years when I started the MBA program and was confronted with an interesting choice. Some people were getting MBAs so they could get high paying jobs and some of us were there who just wanted to make the non-profits work better. So probably my training in the seminary influenced that decision.”
These days, even though O’Donnell recently celebrated his 80th birthday, he shows no signs of slowing down. For fun, he likes to garden and one of the things he likes most is being treasurer of the Boston Terrier Club of Detroit. “Musetta has already won her championship,” he chuckled. “She is a retired volunteer just like me.”
O’Donnell recently returned looking refreshed from a birthday celebration trip to Europe. He and his wife Helen plan to stay active in his Ferndale community and with their work with the national organization Peace Action. Of course O’Donnell plans to continue volunteering at Common Ground for as long as possible. “I had some experience in the 1960s and 70s with the crisis phone lines, so I know what they do here is very important. Besides,” he laughed, “I like the people here.”