A serious illness in 1997 completely changed the life direction and career of Hank Leland ’88.
After nine years of working as a detective focusing on the field of fraud investigation, Hank found himself permanently disabled and unable to work full time. He then started a part-time business as a financial consultant and used the profits from his venture to found a nonprofit service organization- The Phoenix Doving Project in Olympia, Washington.
In the beginning, The Project provided two services: 1) completely funded life insurance for individuals infected with HIV and 2) provided cash to those infected with HIV to cover living necessities. The later is funded from the profits Hank derives from his work as a financial consultant.
But the more time Hank spent working with the HIV community, the more he realized that much greater assistance was needed. The Project expanded to encompass not only those infected with HIV but also the individuals who supported them. Additional services were added including painting homes, paying for moves and phone bills, and purchasing bus tickets.
By his example and direction, everyone associated with The Project was treated with respect and kindness. From this basic philosophy grew the motto - “Many Communities, One Pride.” In time the service area of The Project expanded to encompass the cities of Portland and Seattle.
As Hank became more aware of the needs, he knew he had to do more, and soon The Project was providing meals and temporary housing for street kids as well. Hank holds a special place in his heart for children and is using his time, money, energy and talents to help them. All of the children assisted by The Project have been victims of profound physical and emotional abuse.
Hank has personally helped needy and abused youth by bringing them into his home to live until they are able to be on their own. With The Project’s assistance, street youth become self-sufficient and learn to feel good about themselves. They earn GEDs, enroll in work programs, receive medical treatment and learn the basics of everyday living - how to open a bank account, shop for groceries, eat smart, cook and follow budget.
As Hank sees the young people succeed, he is very gratified. His reward is seeing that a positive difference has been made in the lives of other human beings.