Senior Page: Stuart Green, Giving Back Through Nonprofits
By: Jennifer Sexton-Riley
Topics: Historic preservation
Newly minted Chatham Historical Society Trustee Stuart Green has been hard at work recently, seeking historic preservation funds to help restore Chatham's circa-1762 Atwood House Museum. Nevertheless, he wants to make one thing clear.
“It's not just about the buildings,” Green explains. “It's the people.”
Green's passion for nonprofit work, for “giving back as much to the community as I receive,” began when he was newly out of graduate school. He worked for two non-profit organizations for seven years, then sat on many nonprofit boards throughout his 40-year career in finance. Now that he and his family are able to spend much of their time in Chatham when they aren't home in Newton, he feels that as he becomes more involved with nonprofits here on Cape Cod, his interests have come full circle.
As a child, Green summered with his family in a variety of New England locales including Maine, New Hampshire, and a shared family home in Chatham. Though he has decades of memories here, he makes no mistake about his washashore status.
“I've always felt like a washashore,” Green laughs, “because I don't have any antecedents born here. We have owned a home here in Chatham for 18 years, and our current home for about four years. We used to come here for just the summer weekends, but since my wife Lisa is now able to work from home, when our son Murray isn't in school we can now spend entire summers in Chatham. It's such a great town, with such great people. Nice people. Educated people. Chatham makes you addicted to the lifestyle. You realize how wonderful it is, and you crave more. We know all the stores, all the shopkeepers. It is easy to come here and hard to leave. It always feels good to be in Chatham, and now that I am retired, I answer to no one but my wife.”
Green volunteered for the historical society before he was asked to join the board of trustees. He considers the opportunity to serve on the board of trustees to be a great honor, especially considering that the board is mostly comprised of year-round residents. He explains that his entire family is passionate about giving back to the community which gives them so much enjoyment.
“Our 16 year old son volunteers at the Orpheum Theatre – it is his second year,” Green says. “I like giving him the opportunity to be involved with a nonprofit. My wife Lisa is active with the Old Village Association. We are the type of people who want to give back to the community, and we want our son to learn the value of contributing. We also support the food pantry and we work to collect for them every summer. Like any community, it sounds trite, but you get what you put in.”
Just two hours from Boston, with top health facilities and a great community college where people can take a variety of courses, natural beauty and places of historic value, Cape Cod, and Chatham in particular, is the type of place Green considers a gem of a community.
“We have made many good friendships here which I hope will be long lasting,” Green says. “We meet people in the neighborhood, we meet people through the various committees we are involved with, we meet people in Chatham's restaurants. I've never looked back and thought coming here was a mistake. I hope in the future to have an even bigger stake in things. It's a great town with a great newspaper. The Chronicle really is a window into things here, a great paper.”
Green is aware of the importance of maintaining an active mind and an active lifestyle after retirement, and feels that working on the board of a nonprofit is a wonderful way for retired executives – or anyone, for that matter – to stay sharp and involved in the community while perhaps putting some skills and experience from a longtime career to good use. It won't be a walk in the park, however, he warns.
“If you think you are going to sit on the board of a nonprofit and just sort of be on autopilot, those days are really gone,” Green says. “Organizations must report more to their funding agencies, there is more rigor to their proposals, and they must report in depth on the results of the grants that are received, to make sure it was used as it was intended. Foundations are more sophisticated now, with more assertive board members. The easygoing days are over, and yet there are more nonprofits than ever before, so there is a lot of competition for scarce monies for these organizations that benefit the homeless, families, education, and many excellent causes. I may be successful and get a grant, but it takes a village to fulfill it.”
Fortunately, Green says, that village is filled with hardworking individuals like the historical society's many volunteers, members and the Atwood House Museum's Executive Director Danielle Jeanloz.
“I've been involved with nonprofits for a long time on the mainland, and I can use that experience,” Green says. “The advantages I see in one can be transferred to another, so there is a sort of cross-fertilization process. I owe a lot to my fellow trustees and members, volunteers and the community. Danielle Jeanloz is great. She is driven and professional. She is a breath of fresh air, a community-minded forward thinker, and we are very fortunate to have her. She is able to find and grasp opportunities and put them to good purpose for the historical society and the community.”
Green encourages retirees and anyone else who would like to give back to consider volunteering for one of the many local nonprofits in the community.
“Its a great experience,” Green says. “You get as much out as you put in. You see the tangible results of your work in the form of grants which pay for improvements, activities, building, technology, and many other projects. Good things happen with hard work, and since I have a financial background, I may have ideas about budget and so forth, but the title of trustee doesn't have as much meaning to me as it would have in my 20s. I am more concerned with what I can achieve. We need very committed people. It is not for the faint of heart, but it's also lots of fun.”