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24 Years of Service: Our Interview With Hartford Foundation Volunteer Dick Cave

Dick Cave, special consultant to our Development department and the longest-serving member of the Hartford Foundation, just announced his retirement after 24 years at the Foundation. He began volunteering here part-time in 1993 after retiring from a career in the insurance industry, and quickly became an integral part of our team, coming in nearly every day. We asked Dick about his time at the Foundation, how things have changed over the years, and why he chose to spend so much of his retirement with us.

 

How did you get started volunteering at the Hartford Foundation?

Prior to becoming directly involved in the Foundation, I had set up a fund in my wife's grandfather and father's name, The Charles B. Cook Fund. It’s still active. I became interested as a result of that. In about 1993, I was getting ready to retire, and I wanted to hopefully use some of the work experience I had to do some good for the community. I talked with the Hartford Foundation’s Executive Director at the time, Michael Bangser, and he suggested that it would be okay for me to come in and work with the Foundation, as long I gave him a day and a half a week. That sounded pretty good to me. So in 1993, I think it was the third Friday in June, I retired from Cigna and started here on Monday.

You didn't even want to take a day off?

Well, I did. I took the weekend. [laughs]

What types of work have you done for the Foundation over the years? You’ve transitioned around to a few different departments.

I came into work and initially got involved with scholarships. I ran the scholarship program, which was a lot of fun. We started getting more and more scholarships and that became difficult, so we brought in help, someone who had some experience. We've got a fabulous program now.

I transitioned from scholarships, and then I was working with the Nonprofit Loan Fund that we had back then. I visited a lot of agencies and tried to help them get their financials squared away, and if they needed dollars then we worked with a private fund. Following that, I got involved with the Nonprofit Support Program, which was just starting out. That was a small staff of one, and I became two. The Nonprofit Support Program grew substantially and now is a major piece of the Foundation.

What has changed in the 24 years you’ve worked here?

Everything!

Obviously the staffing has changed. I believe that I’m the longest tenured person in terms of the staff. I’ve seen the entire staff turn over. I’ve seen us grow, I’ve seen us develop programs working directly with nonprofits and helping them to improve their performance, and then starting a number of very important programs at the Foundation, like our work with kids.

You said you’ve been here through the entire staff turning over. What has remained consistent about the Foundation?

Well, I think the main thing is the direction we've had. We’ve picked up some different programs, we've changed our ways a little bit, but we've always had a view toward providing the best kind of support for the nonprofit community and doing the best job we can with the funds that are presented to us by our donors. I think that has been, to me, the key to the Foundation's success over the years.

What are your best memories or proudest achievements from your time here?

As far as achievements, I think being part of the success of the Foundation has been the best thing that I can say I've done. I’ve participated in a number of programs that have been successful. Certainly I'm pleased with the results from the funds that I have with the Foundation.

As I mentioned earlier, I have the Cook Fund, which is a designated fund. Shortly before my wife passed away, we set up a community college scholarship, The Roxanne Cave Scholarship Fund, as part of a new Hartford Foundation program. I'm pleased with what has happened to those funds. They've grown. My kids have gotten involved. They're making grants each year, in areas where they are involved. I'm happy that they’ve become interested in being donors. We have set up a program so that the Cook Fund can be continued and still supported by the family after I pass away. I think that's going to be another fine result.

Can you tell me in your words about the Charles B. Cook Fund and what it was meant for?

The primary thing was that we were interested in helping inner-city youth, boys and girls, trying to help them achieve and do better. A number of the folks are minorities and they don't always get their full share. We wanted to try to be helpful in that area, and I think we have over the years. With a great deal of support from the Foundation program staff, identifying good local programs that would meet that need, we've been able to provide grants that have helped a lot of inner-city programs over the years.

What do you hope to see from the Hartford Foundation in the future, after you leave here?

I love the direction they're going. I think it’ll be interesting to watch what happens. With the board that we have, and the staff that we have now, we'll be able to move ahead and continue to broaden our interests to be able to do an even better job of meeting the needs of the community.

You could have spent your retirement on the golf course, on the beach, traveling the world, but you basically chose to work another full-time job with us. What made you decide to spend 24 years of your “retirement” here?

I think at the time I made the decision to come over, I had in mind that I'd like to spend at least five years to phase into retirement. [laughs]

The time just kept flying by. I have to admit it was a heck of a lot of fun. And fulfilling. It was really great. I met wonderful people.

You hear a lot of folks that retire and they're involved with their own activities only, and I just felt it was important, and still do, to keep on doing things that are meaningful to others as well. I don't think I’d be very happy if I had just gone the way you say, playing golf — which I still do! — but I’ve been able to do some of that, as well as working here. So it's been really a great result.

This seemed to be the right time to go on to the next phase. I just recently moved into a place where there are more internal programs going on. There's a need there for some help, and so I think maybe I could give them some help with some of their activities.

How will you spend your time now that you're retiring for real?

As I say, I just moved three months ago into a place with senior housing. There are a lot of nice people. It’s very, very enjoyable. The last few years since I lost my wife, it was very quiet in my house, and so it's nice to be able to get into a facility where there are a lot of activities going on. The house is right around the corner from the University of Saint Joseph and I can take courses there if I want to. It allows you to be as active as you want to be, and I want to be. So I think that's what I'm really looking forward to in the future.

Anything else you want to add?

I think that retiring is not… you really shouldn't think that the only thing you can do is to go off and do nothing, or sports, or activities like that. I worked with a lot of little nonprofits as I went though my 24 years here, and a lot of them need help. Something I’d wish for is to see others, who have a lot to give, take the opportunity to go out and find something that they can believe in, and give them some help, because they need it, a lot of them do. 

 


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