Work & Purpose

This Prize-Winning Homeless Advocate Is Hands On

Mike McQuaid is the first to get the Piper Trust Encore Career award

A man was recently sweeping the steps of a building at the Human Services Campus in downtown Phoenix, which brings together more than a dozen local agencies serving more than 1,000 homeless men and women. And with a big meeting scheduled, it was no surprise to see someone tidying up.

What was startling was the person wielding the broom: Mike McQuaid, president of the board of directors for the $24 million campus who is also a commercial real estate developer and president of JP Management.

Helping to End Homelessness Locally

A key figure in getting the campus built and its first managing director, McQuaid is a leader in the drive to end chronic homelessness in central Arizona within the next few years. And if that means grabbing a broom, he’ll do it.

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Tall and sturdy, dressed in business casual, McQuaid walks through the Human Services Campus as comfortably as his own neighborhood. He smiles and greets people lounging on the lawn or heading for appointments. McQuaid’s motivation: “Seeing people that I know would not be getting help if the campus weren’t here — they’d be wandering the street.”

Piper Trust Encore Career Prize Winner

It makes perfect sense that last November, McQuaid, 68, was selected by the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust as the recipient of its first Piper Trust Encore Career Prize — a $50,000 award recognizing an encore career leader aged 50 or older who is addressing a major social need in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix. Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust, based in Phoenix, is a private foundation that invests in Arizona nonprofits and programs such as Experience Matters. Its Encore Career Prize, to be awarded every other year, is modeled after the annual Purpose Prize given by the nonprofit Encore.org to people over 60 who are improving their communities and the world.

As boomers approach retirement age, more and more of them are looking for an “encore career” — meaningful work that lets them combine their experience and skills for the greater good.

McQuaid’s encore career is actually more of a parallel career.

“I’ll always be involved with my private business,” he explained. “But I have made working for issues regarding homelessness kind of a side-by-side career.”

How His Encore Career Began

McQuaid took the first steps on the path to that second career nearly 30 years ago, when his two sons needed to do community service as part of a church project. McQuaid suggested an initiative he’d heard of that served dinner to the homeless — André House of Hospitality — and tagged along to help. Soon he and his wife, Molly, were regular volunteers.

The plight of the homeless went straight to his heart. “I couldn’t believe there were individuals by themselves, on the street with nothing,” he said.

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When André House began looking for a building to serve meals (it had been offering them in a park or vacant lot), McQuaid parlayed his professional expertise into helping to find one and structuring a deal. He then became the group’s first chairman of the board.

Looking at the Bigger Picture

Around 2000, McQuaid said, “I really started to look at the bigger picture beyond just what André House did. Wasn’t there a way to create a kind of one-stop shopping for the homeless, so they didn’t have to go to a different place for food, shelter, healthcare and other services?”

Other nonprofit executives and local leaders were wondering the same thing. Together, they came up with a proposal for a campus that would house various services. McQuaid became the first managing director of the new Human Services Campus (salary: $1 a month) and spent two years overseeing construction.

The campus was hailed as a national model of coordinating services for the homeless when it opened in November 2005. But the various agencies on the site had little experience working together. Fortunately, bringing people together is one of McQuaid’s professional strengths.

“His personality played very well in that initial chaos,” recalled Kris Volcheck, founder of the dental clinic. “You felt that Mike had everything under control.”

McQuaid managed the campus from 2003 to 2010. Now, besides serving as president of its board of directors, he’s treasurer of the Lodestar Day Resource Center on the campus.

A Very Personal Commitment

The McQuaids’ commitment to others plays out in their personal life. They’ve become close friends with a family that has struggled over the years; one of their children stays with the McQuaids during the school week. Mike takes the 10-year-old to and from school every day.

The family has also started a small foundation to help needy students get a Catholic education and to assist the homeless.

An Inspiring Example

A lot of people say they want to serve the community when they finish working. But McQuaid is “an inspiration and an example to show that it can be done,” said Doug Parker, CEO of American Airlines Group and co-chair with McQuaid of Valley of the Sun United Way’s Ending Homelessness Advisory Council.

“He’s earned the right to be off and enjoying retirement, and he’s choosing to take the time to help people less fortunate,” Parker said. “I tell him he’s my hero, and he thinks I’m joking. But I’m serious. I wish there more people like him.”

Kathleen Ingley is a freelance writer and award-winning journalist.

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