Just what every non-profit society needs
It was 5:58 a.m., a brisk -2 degrees, and Jim Casey, Executive Director of the Multiple Sclerosis Society was the first to arrive at the site in North Vancouver. Later in the day the place would be filled with people enjoying the first North Shore Super Cities walk, a fund raiser for MS. At exactly 6:03 a.m. Steven M. Cook, a tax lawyer with Thorsteinssons, arrived. With hair was still wet from the shower, Steve was ready to work, and he and Jim set up tents, signage, put boxes out, and sliced oranges. In the late afternoon, Steve, the event chair and MC, was still working, now helping to clean up. Steve’s energy and dedication are well-known to Sally Greenwood of the MS Society, who says of Steve, “He is a superman and he does it with a smile on his face.”
In 1995 the MS Society recruited Steve to a committee to give tax advice for benefits. He was then elected to the Board of Directors and acted as secretary until 1996. In 1996/97 he was the president-elect, and in 1997 began the first year of his two-year term as president. Steve chairs the Board of Directors and executive meetings. “He ensures that everybody has an opportunity to contribute,” says Jim.
v The MS president’s position demands a lot—there are five board meetings per year, provincial presidents sit on the national board and have two national meetings per year. Steve had initial concerns about the time commitment, but after talking over the opportunity with his wife Wendy and his law partners, he took the position. The MS Society hasn’t looked back. Sally says Steve is truly a leader, “We recruited some really strong members after he became involved,” she says. “He’s always raising the public profile of the organization. Everything he’s done is allowing us to open more doors of opportunity.” Jim agrees, saying that Steve often visits local groups, and participates in planning forums.
The Society held a 100 Holes event this summer, for which people are encouraged to raise $2500 in pledges and golf for 100 holes. Not only did Steve recruit other people to golf, but he raised $9,300 in pledges.
The commitment Steve shows for the MS Society appears to have arisen from a professional point of view. “He enjoyed the committee and we really nurtured his interest,” says Jim. Since then Steve has recruited friends and colleagues for committees. He has also developed friendships with people who have MS, and he has made presentations at a school with someone who has MS. His involvement in events has been invaluable to the Society—sometimes he even recruits his five kids to help at events.
Steve has also coached a girls’ soccer team for a number of years. Dr. Mary Jane Bowie is a neighbour of the Cook family. Steve is her daughter’s soccer coach and Mary Jane says that her daughter has had other coaches, “but consistently admires Steve the most and tries her best for him.” From September to June the team practices on Tuesday nights, and plays a game on Sunday in the Vancouver to Fraser Valley area.
v Music is another strong focus in the Cook’s home. For the Kiwanis Music Festival, five or six kids used the house as a base for practicing with their instructor. Mary Jane says Steve and Wendy are “always there for their kids”. Mary Jane says she has been encouraging her 11 year old son to be as fit as he can. She walks and he bikes to school in the morning. As they made their way up a steep hill on the route one day, Steve stopped his car, rolled down the window and said “Way to go big guy! You can do it!” Her son felt a great boost. Steve brings that same spirit and enthusiasm to the MS Society and the work he does there. “Organizations just can’t survive without people like Steve,” says Jim. “They’re worth their weight in gold.”
This article was published in the October 1998 issue of BarTalk. © 1998 The Canadian Bar Association. All rights reserved.