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Great Entrepreneur Series, From Success To Significance: Pete Brady

Especially at Christmastime many people are inspired to do good for others. What is most impressive is when people dedicate their lives to helping those less fortunate. This story in my Great Entrepreneur Series is about an executive who found a calling and built something truly important.  

Pete Brady and the Handy Dandy Handyman team
Tom Morlock
Peter Brady started his retirement from corporate America by doing a few, small, volunteer handyman projects around his church community, and those charitable efforts turned into something extraordinary — Handy Dandy Handyman, a 501c(3) with 2,200 volunteers, 900+ repeat clients, a seven-person Board of Directors, and a continuous example what being a good person is all about. Brady is affectionately known as “Boss Man.”
Brady, retired in 2000 at age 58 from a successful 38-year career with Nestle USA. He recalls hearing in church a year earlier about the good works of St. Peter. “I felt it was aimed at me,” he said.
“My intention was to return to the Lord all the goodness I have received in my lifetime. I felt the need to reach out as a handyman for the seniors, handicapped, unemployed, single parents, or anyone in need who could not afford any private services due to lack of funds or lack of ability to do it themselves.”
“My heart became enlarged the more I started to help,” Peter told me. “It was a solid indicator I made the right decision. On March 1, 2000 I started to reach out to anyone I had heard from. Since then we have helped approximately 1,600 families in need, and the list keeps growing. From raking a few lawns to providing five complete home makeovers, to having 2,200 subscribers and supporters … this is beyond what I ever could have expected. Most, if not all of the work and projects have been life-changers in a positive way.”
In addition to the annual raking of leaves, which draws 600 volunteers, and complete home renovations for the poor, typical HDHM projects include house painting, basement cleanouts, driving clients to doctor appointments, taking shut-ins out for a meal or an activity, providing work for recovering addicts, finding living quarters for the homeless, finding good used cars and medical equipment for those who are in need, and a lot more.
The stories are moving. An abused woman with four children and homeless. HDHM gathered donations of money and furniture and worked for months until a Section 8 public housing unit became theirs.
The children whose father was not allowed to visit them, without gifts at Christmas, living out of a car. HDHM provided them short term hotel and meals. A Vietnam veteran with PTSD whose house became decrepit inside and out to the point where the neighbors complained of blight. HDHM pulled off a complete makeover.
None of this was easy for Peter, especially at the start. He had no experience with email, and then when he put a sign on his lawn he suddenly had an overflow of people coming forward with needs. While he was a top-flight executive, his own handyman skills were limited to painting and loading dumpsters. He was challenged to come up with answers.
On top of that, Peter was not prepared to pay for all the thousands of dollars of materials that were continually needed; the church was helpful but with limited resources.
Eventually, the list of volunteers and subscribers to his email list became large enough that the ministry started to support itself and gain the ability to take on more and more clients and projects.
Asked about what his legacy might be, Peter said, “Hopefully the life-changing experiences that we helped to provide and the joyful memories of the countless volunteers who shared in the excitement of assisting the single parents, the homeless, the sickly people, the seniors, the unemployed …. ”
Peter was happy to offer some advice for other would-be charitable entrepreneurs.
“To those who have big ideas, start in a small way with no expectations that it will become a big thing. You will never know what will happen. When the good Lord opens the floodgates following some small achievements, that is what will determine your next steps. Do not rush into anything, unless you feel competent to handle it in a meaningful way. Go at it with a big heart, and your heart will increase in size once you reach your level of success. The feeling you and your fellow volunteers will receive is going to be enough to get you down the road. Be patient.”
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