I founded Citizen Gratitude. Here’s why:

I’ve been interested in fundraising and grant writing for quite a while. About a decade ago, I started a company (read: I created the framework for a potential company) that I thought would eventually turn into a consulting firm. I registered an awesome name with the state and paid the fees. (I am keeping the name private, because who knows… one day I might revive it.) Then after that…

I did nothing else.

I was too busy working my regular job and too hesitant to take a risk and break away, that I did nothing. I felt the comfort of my employ and the security it provided my growing family and me was too valuable to forsake. I also stupidly believed that because of the awesomeness of my company’s name, something would eventually happen and I would reap the benefits.

But back then, I had no catalyst — there was nothing on which to consult. I could reap no benefits, because I made no real effort. My efforts would have had no purpose.

Fast forward about nine and a half years.

December 2015 rolls around and I find myself reading a news article. It was discussing funeral arrangements for a guy called James Douglas Beavers in Fort Wayne, Indiana. Mr. Beavers had perished all alone. In fact his passing wasn’t even discovered until a neighbor went to check on him several days after his demise.

James Beavers had no family and no friends. He barely had acquaintances. The solitary man was an orphan from birth. He was also a Vietnam vet.

The story went on to mention that the funeral home — D.O. McComb & Sons — had tried to find relatives, but they were ultimately unsuccessful. So with no one to cover the cost of Mr. Beavers’ funeral, the funeral home took care of the service, ensuring full military honors. They also had an obituary printed in the local paper inviting members of the community to come participate in the service. At that moment, something truly special started to occur.

Over 1200 fellow vets and appreciative citizens showed up to pay their respects.


I was touched.

As I continued to read about the funeral and the various groups of people who showed up, there was one veteran who said something that upset me…or at least left me feeling uneasy. He was a Vietnam vet who stated that generally, when Vietnam Era vets are introduced to one another, they say: “Welcome home!”

The veteran went on to point out that because of the protest mentality throughout the United States at the time, when these soldiers returned home they were not welcomed home. Young Americans returning home from a war they didn’t start, a war into which many of them were drafted, were treated like scum upon their return. How shameful!

Right then it hit me. I realized something needed to be done. In some way, we need to be more appreciative of people whose jobs offer the rest of us the blessings of freedom and safety. The cause may not always be the best one and the strategy or execution may be flawed, but never again can we allow those who risk their lives for our well-being to be snubbed and disrespected like the young men were who came back to America after serving during Vietnam.

I knew it would take a lot of outreach and a lot of educating the community. I also knew it couldn’t just include military.

Each day, members of our communities go about their jobs, excellently bettering our way of life. In addition to soldiers, police officers, firefighters and search and rescue personnel put it all on the line each shift to help maintain stability within society. That stability enables educators, mentors and professionals to touch the lives of the people they encounter each day. They bless the lives of each of us in one way or another.

So, from this internal thought session was born, Citizen Gratitude. Citizen Gratitude is a nonprofit that honors and recognizes the best among us. We strongly believe that excellence is contagious. And while there is so much negativity out there, it is crucial that we combat it with more positivity, more gratitude and a brighter spotlight on the good people are doing each day.

James Beavers’ funeral shows that even the most solitary and isolated people among us can inspire us to look beyond ourselves and be better people. No matter where we are or how we look, we are all interconnected and we are all brothers and sisters. May we always strive to be the best versions of ourselves we can be!