From an early age, George has been clear about the difference that Community has made in his life. Living in a small farming community of Westfield in central Wisconsin, George saw how neighbors relied upon one another. Everyone knew his name and he knew everyone. There was a comfort of being known. To support George’s father, who was dealing with emphysema, the family moved to Benson, Arizona, a town of around 3 thousand people in Southern Arizona. At the core of the Benson community was the school. Sporting events, school activities drew the support of the community. The passion for community has always run deep in George.
Having moved to the Greater Phoenix area to attend college and start his career as a systems engineer, George became an active member of the community. At the age of 24, George became the Community Leader of The Hunger Project. Moving to San Francisco and joining the staff of The Hunger Project from 1982 to 1988 further developed George’s passion for leadership and developing strong and sustainable communities.
After his wife Jolie and George returned to Phoenix in 1988, George became part of the founding committee that launched the Phoenix Youth at Risk organization. Through the Phoenix Youth at Risk programs and Valley Big Brothers and Big Sisters, George took on mentoring youth. In his own words, “One of my greatest joys is seeing young people thrive as they grow in discovering their voice, their confidence and their abilities”.
George served on the board of the Arizona Interfaith Movement for many years and he continues to carry the message of its mission to build bridges of understanding, respect, and support among diverse people of faith through education, dialogue, service, and the implementation of the Golden Rule.
In 2010, George worked with business partners, Scott Jacobson and Bill Black, to launch the Arizona Organizing Project. This organization worked to pilot projects that empowered people living in the condition of homelessness to be at the center of their own journey to self-reliance. The Arizona Organizing Project facilitated and supported multiple grassroots peer groups of homeless people including:
• Madison Street Veterans Association – grassroots homeless veterans that now run their own 50 bed transitional housing unit for veterans in need.
• Jefferson Street Gentleman’s Association – a group of men over the age of 55 that were or had been homeless.
• Capitol Mall Fellows – this peer group of former inmates worked to do redemptive acts of service in the community.
• Women of Wealth – was a peer group of current or formerly homeless women that shared the wealth of their life experience with one another as they worked to obtain sustainable housing.
The Arizona Organizing Project piloted a program called “Sheltered in Faith” as a partnership with churches and faith organizations. A small, select group of homeless men (8 to 10) would use a space in the church as a safe shelter while they worked to develop their plan to sustainable housing, support the other members of the team and contribute to the cleanliness and security of the church. The program was a success as it supported over 30 men to find sustainable housing and had an 80 percent success rate. Watch a video about Sheltered in Faith.