A Chance Encounter: How A Casual Lunch Turned into a Mission Moment

A Chance Encounter: How A Casual Lunch Turned into a Mission Moment

By Mark Whitley, Easterseals Southern California President & CEO

Susan with parents Claire and Bill

Susan with parents Claire and Bill

Earlier this summer, I was at lunch with a friend of Easterseals Southern California who was interested in joining our board of directors, which plays an important role in supporting our organization. As we were talking, a woman from a nearby booth stopped by because she overheard our conversation about Easterseals. She introduced herself as Karen and said her sister, Susan, has lived in one of our residential homes in Burbank since 2007.

Karen said her parents – seated at the nearby booth – spoke at an Easterseals board meeting many years ago. They shared how Susan’s quality of life improved drastically after moving into one of our community-based homes.

Before Easterseals, Susan lived most of her life in a state-run developmental center. Karen said that to this day, her sister continues to thrive in her home of 16 years.

I walked away from that restaurant with a renewed sense of purpose and a reminder that this is why we do what we do at Easterseals. After this chance encounter, Karen sent me this heartfelt message:

“What a blessing to be able to thank you in person for all that Easterseals has provided to our sister Susan.

Susan’s Easterseals (support) staff in Burbank have provided a wonderful life for her, even throughout the challenges of the pandemic. She is 62 years old and continues to enjoy daily exercise outdoors, time in her backyard garden, and plenty of fun outings. In fact, Easterseals staff will drive her to our favorite park here in Long Beach so my elderly parents can see her.

Abundant thanks to the whole Easterseals leadership and staff.”

(L to R) Karen (sister), Susan, Steve (brother), Liz (niece), and Claire (mom)

(L to R) Karen (sister), Susan, Steve (brother), Liz (niece), and Claire (mom)

Today, Easterseals has more than 20 homes across Southern California that support more than 100 people to have full and meaningful lives.

As I reflect on this encounter, I could not be prouder of our employees. Our associates make each house into a home by creating an environment that is welcoming, fosters independence, and promotes individual choice.

Nothing gives me greater joy than to see our work make life-changing differences for people. These are the mission moments that truly matter!


To learn more about Living Options or about finding a meaningful career as a Direct Service Provider at Easterseals, visit our website.

By |2023-08-21T17:08:07-07:00August 21st, 2023|Categories: Living Options|Tags: , |0 Comments

About the Author:

Mark Whitley has served as president and CEO of Easterseals Southern California since 1989. Under his leadership, the organization has experienced significant growth with services and programs that now serve 18,000 people and families covering a geographic area covering nine counties from Ventura in the north down to South San Diego.

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