June 26, 2011
The Servant Leader by Ken Blanchard and
Phil Hodges quickly introduces a concept titled Thinking Ahead -
Devotional on Successorship. Summarily it says, "One aspect of a job
well done as a servant leader is what we do to prepare others to carry
on after our season of leadership is completed. Your personal
succession planning efforts will speak volumes about your motives as a
During the past month, God has called three of His "good and faithful servants" that have literally spent their heaven doing good on earth long before I met them for the first time. Each, in the words of Blanchard and Hodges, "considered their position as being on loan and as an act of service, looking beyond their own season of leadership to prepare the next generation of leaders."
Debra & Duane Stephens did not have children of their own, but throughout Deb's week long celebration of life during the end of May, it was clear she never hesitated when it came to raising up the children of San Diego County's most critical community, starting with those attending her alma mater - Lincoln High School. While she was being remembered for all she did to affect the lives of so many young people over the years, I could not help thinking about all the time she spent serving the elders of our community. The venerable Rev. Dr. George Walker Smith of The Catfish Club would tell you Debra Stephens was "his right hand, left hand, and the glue that held his operation together for a long, long time."
I will never forget meeting "The Great" Preston Davis and a lovely lady by the name of Edith Anderson at a San Diego Padres Community Leaders Recognition Night at Qualcomm Stadium in 1997. At the time, I was representing the San Diego Regional Police Athletic League. Preston and Edith were wearing bright red jackets. I inquired who they were representing and they spent the rest of the evening (our seats were next to each other) proudly letting me know - "we represent the Y's Men International Club at the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA." I learned about all their trips around the world and how they served the Y as volunteers and fundraisers. The next time I saw Edith, Debra was there. The last time I saw Edith, Debra was there. Funny how Debra had a way of being everywhere. READ MORE.
In 2003, I received a call from Mike Cohen, the Executive Director of the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center wanting to know if I could use a bus. He was quick to point out that the exterior needed a lot of work and we would need to get it started since it had not moved for quite some time, but there was a couple on his board that were adamant about finding a good home for this "special" vehicle. I stopped by the JCC to check it out and was amazed about what I saw inside the bus. While the Jewish Community Center was undergoing capital improvements, the bus served as a "Mobile Academy" for the JCC kids including the ones from Julie & Lowell Potiker's home. We were able to get the bus started and to the Y. Then, a number of friends including but not limited to Colored Ink, Southeast Rotary, San Diego Transit, and Rachel Robinson contributed time, treasure, and talent to completely renovate the vehicle into the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA Mobile Academy that travels to our nine before and after school sites and communities that do not have technology.
All of this because Julie & Lowell Potiker felt it would be better to find a home for this old bus in need of some TLC. The Potikers stopped by to visit our Y before finalizing the contribution and it was then that I learned more about why we have the Mobile Academy today. Lowell's family is from my hometown of Detroit where his parents Sheila & Hughes founded the Entertainment Book. Soon after, I would see how the transformational philanthropy of the Potiker Family Foundation had made a difference for so many served by the JCC, San Diego Maritime, Historical, and Art Museums, Senior Community Centers, and the La Jolla Playhouse - just to name a few. Sheila Potiker was called to be with God on June 13, 2011 (READ MORE). I thank God for her and Hughes spending their heaven doing good on earth and sharing that same spirit with their children and grandchildren. Because they did, thousands of kids in San Diego County's most critical community have climbed aboard the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA Mobile Academy since September of 2003 and logged online to the information highway limited only by their imagination thanks to this amazing gift from Julie & Lowell Potiker.
Most days, I will read the online version of the San Diego Union-Tribune at SignOnSanDiego.com. Today, I found myself flipping pages of the print version when I reached the obituary section and learned that Belinda Bencomo passed away after a long battle with cancer at the age of 48. It has been years since we last saw each other, maybe fifteen or more. While I served with the PAL, she was the Aquatics Specialist with the City of San Diego Community Parks & Recreation Division. The current economic conditions that always put municipal pools, recreation centers, and libraries on the chopping block is not unique to 2011. Belinda had an amazing way of turning obstacles into opportunities while leading everyone on a joyful journey to one solution after another.
Together the San Diego Regional Police Athletic League and Belinda's aquatics team joined forces to host a Championship Swim Meet for the community pool teams. Belinda was easily one of the go to advocates for aquatics safety and teaching kids to swim in this region. To put this in perspective, It is estimated that 33,000 children ages 5-12, who live in the service area of the Jackie Robinson Family YMCA, have never taken swimming lessons to develop a healthy respect for the water. The pool at our Y was built before the municipal facilities at Memorial Recreation Center and Martin Luther King, Jr. Recreation Center. Together, these three pools serve over 271,000 residents living in 72,000 households. Belinda helped me understand how critical it is in a coastal region like San Diego to teach kids how to swim by keeping pools open seven days a week all year round. In June, over three-hundred students from the King-Chavez Schools learned to swim over three-weeks at our Y. Belinda, these kids are for you. I can hear you saying, "Don't stop until EVERY child learns to swim!" READ MORE.
"Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!" ~Matthew 25:21