Carmel Valley resident Frank Whelan has a soft spot in his heart for those struggling with intellectual and developmental disabilities. He’s passionate about helping people become fully participating members of their communities. It’s one of the reasons Whelan became a longtime volunteer with the nonprofit organization Options for All.
Whelan met the CEO of the nonprofit at a conference at the University of San Diego in 2007. At the time, he worked in a CPA firm that specialized in audits of nonprofit organizations.
Options for All serves 1,300 individuals who face the challenges of autism, cerebral palsy, Down Syndrome, hearing and vision impairments, learning and intellectual disabilities and severe behavioral disorders. The nonprofit offers a wide range of programs and services in San Diego and throughout California.
Whelan is now Chief Financial Officer at Health Center Partners and its subsidiaries. He holds an MBA from UC Irvine and a BA in economics from UC San Diego. He joined Options for All first on the Finance Committee, then the Audit Committee, and then became board chair. He’s worked with the organization for more than a decade.After seeing the organization’s impact on program clients, Whelan felt inspired to make an impact of his own and give back to his community. He shares, “What I've come to appreciate as I've spent more time getting to know the individuals that we work with is that the impact absolutely goes two ways. It is deeply satisfying to be involved with our participants, to see things from their point of view, and to learn from them. It gives me a warm feeling to be involved in such a wonderful organization.”
As board chair, he remembers a particularly eye-opening meeting that deeply touched him. “I'll never forget the board meeting where a statistic was mentioned that over half of our participants have no family involved in their lives,” he recalls. “I think this fact about the population we serve was well understood by the staff, but it absolutely stopped me in my tracks. I can't imagine my own life without family support, so to think of someone with a developmental disability in that situation is just heartbreaking. For those people, especially, we are a critical lifeline to the community and hopefully a feeling of belonging, purpose and fulfillment in their lives. It still makes me tear up thinking about it now, but again it's nice to know Options for All can be a little bright spot in their lives.”
Whelan points out several goals that Options for All has accomplished:“We've more than doubled in size in the 12 years (in terms of gross revenue), which reflects the incredible growth of our programs and the people we serve.”
“We withstood the Great Recession. We had to make some difficult cuts, particularly at the middle and senior management level, but we avoided cuts to programs and minimized the impact to our participants. As painful as the process was, it made us a stronger and more nimble organization and we emerged poised for growth once the worst part of the downturn had passed.
“We’ve built a healthy financial reserve. Back when the state budget was a little more uncertain, we set a goal of having a certain-size reserve to call on in case of difficult times. With prudent financial management and planning, several years later, we met the goal. And several years after that, we've exceeded it by a sizable margin.”
Whelan continues his volunteer role at Options for All because of a fire lit from deep within himself. “I get a deep satisfaction from volunteering, knowing that I'm giving back to the community that has given so much to me. I find it incredibly satisfying to act in a way that's consistent with my principles. I like to think I'm helping to change something in the world, in the lives of others, and that gives meaning to life beyond just myself.”
For more information on Options for All, visit www.optionsforall.org.