Change is a large part of what we do. Nothing stays the same no matter how hard we try, and that, my friends, can often be a good thing. A few years ago, I contacted the editor of Counseling Today and shared my thoughts on the need for a column that spoke to the masses of folks in the counseling profession who dedicate their lives to serving others through nonprofit work. I provided some story ideas and hoped to see some of them end up in print.
To my surprise, the editor not only liked the idea but offered the column to me; he even helped me flesh out the name. Since that time, I have written every column and answered every email on a pro bono basis as a way to give back to a profession that has given so very much to me. I have been amazed at the volume of emails I have received related to my online column and the number of countries those emails have originated from. I’ve done my best to answer each and every query, although I’m sure my spam filter may have hidden a few.
As a teenager, I was part of a team that educated folks of all ages about safer sex practices, teen pregnancy and related issues. The first time I met the other team members, I was simply a student at school, watching the team’s presentation in the auditorium. I disagreed with some of the team’s points and had some insights of my own to share. I had never raised my hand in a large group before and had no plans heading into the presentation to raise my hand this time, but something the group said caused me to launch my hand high into the air.
I shared my concerns and saw that I had unintentionally made the presenters uncomfortable. I noticed their boss and my principal looking at each other, their faces turning a bit red. I sat down after saying my part and, after the presentation was done, I went back to class as normal.
Suddenly, I heard my name called and I was directed to the office, where I saw my principal and the whole team waiting for me. I thought I was in trouble, but, instead, the team members told me they were aware of their shortfalls — although they had never been called out on them before. To my surprise, they offered me a slot on their team, saying I could focus on the issues I had identified. Initially, I declined, but over the succeeding weeks, the team’s director called me again and again until I finally agreed to try the team out. That’s the thing about life: If we refuse to go beyond our normal comfort level, we rarely grow.
I started with small presentations, but within weeks, I had been moved up to state- and national-level presentations. Eventually, I was reaching international organizations, all at a time before the internet, YouTube and the like. I enjoyed the process a great deal and learned so much. A small-town boy, I twice went to Washington, D.C., to present in front of an international audience, rally on Capitol Hill and meet with high-powered politicians. It was not an experience this former high school dropout and single father (with custody) had ever expected. The tour lasted a few years and included interviews on the radio and television, in newspapers and magazines, and by the Associated Press.
I remember talking with the team’s director one day about how I would know when it was time to move on. I asked if there were guidelines in place or a time limit for the position. She replied simply, “When it’s time, you will just know.”
A year or so later, I found myself reflecting on what I had done. I had become a headliner for two presentation teams for programs focused on young parents, helped raise funding for programming for young fathers in both programs and done much to raise general awareness of the topics. I was nearing the end of high school and was ready to head out into the workforce full time. Someone who had seen me speak at the state capital helped me get a job, and with that, I felt I was ready to fade away from the public light. Things had changed, and with those changes, I found my passion waning. It was time.
The only job I have had for many, many years is as director of the charity I founded. I have been here since 2005 but started to develop the charity much earlier. During that time, we have grown from tiny and poor with a small office to having a corporate office at our original location and a therapeutic farm at another location. At our farm, we help train and mold the incoming generation of clinicians while also doing everything we can to make a real and lasting difference in the lives of those with whom we work.
I can’t imagine ever moving on from this place. I have even turned down offers that would have doubled my salary, halved my workweek and provided me with benefits that I never would have imagined. As good as those offers have been, none of them possessed the magic that this place has for me.
I believe I am answering a calling from above to serve, and serve I do to the best of my ability. Money is not my driving passion, nor will it ever be. I live in the same humble place I lived when I turned 6 and likely will remain their till I am called home. The only difference is that I own the place now.
My passion for “Nonprofit News” has not waned. I enjoy writing about and encouraging others to “do good,” and I cannot see that changing anytime soon. Still, for reasons not worth exploring in this column, I find that now is the time for me to depart. I am thankful for having had a brilliant editor on this column and for having a person who always seemed able to find the very best images to go with everything I submitted. I am thankful for the American Counseling Association for embracing me as a member so many years ago and for the always available David Kaplan (ACA’s chief professional officer), who has listened to various ideas over the years and who has been there to provide information for columns when needed.
I am humbled by the sheer number of emails I have received about this column and that this small-town “doc” has been able to consult with folks from all around the globe without ever having to leave the farm. You all have made this adventure one that I will never forget.
Beyond my normal work, I find myself suddenly exploring options that I had declined in the past. There is a possibility that you may see a Doc Warren YouTube channel very soon. I may contact the TV channel that once offered me my own show titled “Real Issues With Doc Warren.” There is the possibility of a podcast or radio show as well, although I have even money on the likelihood that I may just give myself extra tractor therapy time. Turning wrenches has been ever so appealing to me as of late …
If there has been one main theme that I have tried to convey to you all, it is that good ideas should never be silenced due to a lack of funding, a lack of space or a lack of experience. If you have a passion, an idea and the drive, you can make almost any nonprofit dream take flight. Start small and keep the spending low, but think big. Think long term while also focusing on each day. When I lacked a fax machine, I was thinking about when I would have acres of land for my clients. Never accept failure as an option.
Nonprofit News looks at issues that are of interest to counselor clinicians, with a focus on those who are working in nonprofit settings.
“Doc Warren” Corson III is a counselor, educator, writer and the founder, developer, and clinical and executive director of Community Counseling Centers of Central CT Inc. (www.docwarren.org) and Pillwillop Therapeutic Farm (www.pillwillop.org). Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional resources related to nonprofit design, documentation and related information can be found at docwarren.org/supervisionservices/resourcesforclinicians.html.
Opinions expressed and statements made in articles appearing on CT Online should not be assumed to represent the opinions of the editors or policies of the American Counseling Association.