Retirement gap year: Program matches retiring professionals with nonprofits

Taking a retirement 'gap year' to help others

PORTLAND, Ore. -- How do you picture your retirement? Maybe a little travel or more time on the golf course? Or just putting your feet up for some much deserved down time? That would no doubt sound good to a lot of people, but not to Ken Harris.

“I didn’t accept the notion of retiring you know,” Ken said.

Ken grew up in Portland, graduating from Jefferson High School. He moved away for law school, then became a venture capitalist in Louisiana, always with an emphasis on helping communities in need. So it’s no surprise that when Ken and his family moved home to Portland a few years ago, he started looking for ways to help here.

“To me that’s what life is all about,” said Ken. “What can you do to make life better for your family, your community?”

And to be honest, Harris just isn’t that good at down time anyway. Luckily, his wife heard about a program called Encore Fellows run by Social Venture Partners Portland. It matches retiring professionals with local nonprofits who need their expertise.

Ken has just finished a year with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Portland.

“Ken Harris was heaven-sent to us, absolutely heaven-sent,” said Erin Hubert, the CEO of the Portland Boys and Girls Clubs.

Among other things, Ken helped raise more than $7 million for a new Rockwood campus for the club. Construction is almost finished.

“When I came out here and saw this campus, I said, this is really unbelievable to see this,” Ken said.

When the complex opens in late September or early October, it will be a hub of resources for kids in an area of the city that doesn’t offer much now. Everyone involved agrees it just wouldn’t have happened without Ken.

“In terms of just the complexity of this project, the financing of it, the legalities of it,” explained Erin Hubert, “Ken traversed it in a way that I couldn’t have. I would have had to pay a lot of money to have that expertise come in.”

Instead Ken will get $25,000 for his Encore efforts, and of course, something much more valuable. He will know that he has made a difference in the city he loves.

“It’s good to be a part of that,” Ken said, “and it makes me feel like I’m doing something other than just getting ready to retire.”

© 2017 KGW-TV


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