We had an opportunity to catch up with Brian Dowd, 25-year veteran in telecommunication industry, a 17-year cancer survivor, and a 2022 Tata Group North America Sustainability Award and 2022 Beachwood Citizen of the Year recipient for his work helping thousands of people faced with food insecurity.
What is one thing that inspires you?
I follow non-profit organizations and get inspired by the work they are doing to help people. Since my cancer diagnosis I live a life of service. I do what I can to help people in need. My inspiration is the special people who are helping people in their communities. I like to work with and help non-profit organizations that have a mission that interests me and align to my personal priorities to help people. I am inspired by the following non-profits, who make an impact in various ways. This inspiration is turned into various level of work across all of them over the last 17 years.
LIVESTRONG Foundation helping cancer survivors and their loved ones with services, programs and avenues for system change
Special Olympics of NJ providing year-round sports training and athletic competition of Olympic type sports for people with intellectual disabilities
Ocean of Love for Children with Cancer helps children and their families in Ocean County NJ by providing support groups, financial support, food and scholarships
Providence House domestic Violence Services helps individuals and families affected by domestic violence by providing 24x7 hotline, Emergency Safe Housing, counseling and more.
Fulfill’s Peoples Pantry a food pantry set up like a supermarket store to allow people faced by food insecurity to shop (for FREE) for the food they need
A Need We Feed providing prepared hot meals to Veterans, children, families and the homeless
Our goals is to make the largest and positive impact as we possibly can. To date I am proud to say we have exceeded our own expectations year of our 9 years.
Do you have a favorite quote?
During my first few years of cancer survivorship I read a book, The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch. This book was motivating. It is a about Randy, a college professor, sharing his final message before pancreatic cancer took his life at a young age. Randy offers meaningful life advice, significant words of wisdom, and a great deal of optimism and hope for humanity.
One of my favorite quotes is,
“The brick walls are there for a reason. The brick walls are not there to keep us out. The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something. Because the brick walls are there to stop the people who don’t want it badly enough. They’re there to stop the other people.”
I can relate to this as I stopped at nothing to get the information I needed to make informed decisions. I got second opinions, I asked hundreds of questions and overall I took full control of my cancer journey. I wanted to live a long life with my wife and daughter. I took this drive and determination into my work and never allow brick walls to get in the way. I am always finding ways to remove obstacles and advocate for everyone on my team and cross functional teams to do the same. We can never allow the “brick walls” to get in the way of anything we truly want.
What is your proudest accomplishment?
I have so many proud accomplishments in both my personal and work life. However there are two recent accomplishments that truly stand out and they are both for the same work I have done in the community with my wife and daughters.
At work I have been honored to receive the 2022 Tata Group North America Sustainability Award for my work helping people faced with food insecurity. For a few years I have brought our food drive efforts to work and have collected hundreds of pounds of food and collected hundreds of dollars for various causes.
In my personal life my family and I were named the Beachwood, NJ Citizens of the Year for our work helping people in our community faced with food insecurity. We were unaware of our nomination and found out we were Citizens of the Year at a monthly Town Council meeting in January 2023. We were shocked and surprised to learn of the prestigious honor. These are both humbling to receive. I am really one of the most selfless people you will ever met so to hear I was getting these honors was truly special. I do not do any of the work in the community to receive anything in return. This is why it is so special to me and my family. None of it is possible without our amazing and generous donors. We are proud of what we have been able to do to help people of Ocean County NJ.
Another proud accomplishment is getting the children involved to help the community. Each year we have Key clubs, Sports teams, boy/girl scouts help out with the food drive. Our local high school provides the teenagers with community service hours to help them with their college admission process. It is a WIN-WIN for everyone!
What is the value of giving back to the community?
This is a great question which allows me to reflect on how I see the value of the work I am doing. I see there is a multiplier effect with this giving back. Let me explain. Our goal is to find people or non-profits who need help and I find ways to provide that help. Once we define who we will help I get the community involved to also help. Our structure is very simple. I asked everyone I know to help by donating, showing them where their donations will go and how it will help. Clear communication to help articulate the WHO, WHAT, WHEN, WHY and WHERE. We power our work on social media which we can call out to have our posts shared or share them to community/town pages which helps get more people involved. We also work with school Key Clubs, sports teams, boy/girl scouts and so much more.
Getting the community involved on various levels is the multiplier effect. One of the comments we hear from our donors is how much they appreciate us offering them an opportunity to help people. They like knowing their donations stay local.
We have many elderly in our community who collect food during the year and donate several hundred pounds of food.
In the end, the value is the ability to not only help people, but also to provide an avenue for other people in the community to also help.
How do you choose which social causes to donate to?
My focus is on causes that either affected me, someone in my life or in our community. I am a cancer survivor and I want to help anyone affected by cancer, especially children and their families. People often overlook the fact that the families and loved ones are also going through cancer. They all need help. As a little boy I was affected by domestic violence (DV) which is why I always make sure to help people affected by DV. I know what it is like and how it affects families. I gravitated to the Special Olympics after learning of all the good work they are doing and the positive impact they make in the lives of those who participate in the Special Olympics. The food insecurity work was an idea my wife had after learning how many people needed help in our town, more specifically, fellow families who had children at the same elementary school in our hometown of Beachwood, NJ. Her idea started our annual food drive which is now in our 10th year and has helped thousands of people over the years.
It is important to me to support caused that I am passionate about. The passion shows with every interaction, post and community engagement. It becomes infectious and creates interest for other people to join in.
1000 Spotlights: Why We Give reflects our mission of giving back, to mentor and to inspire those around us.
Through a series of interview questions, we explore intrinsic motivations behind why we give, and talk with those inclined to make a difference in the lives of others. If you are involved in charitable activities, volunteer and paid academic engagements or in community service, we want to talk to you.
Write to us to nominate yourself or someone else who fits the bill.