On October 28, Jim Fousekis came to TheCIL’s office to talk about the organization’s early history and his involvement during that time. Jim served as a leader of the Friends of CIL, a group of supporters that helped fundraise and broadcast TheCIL’s services to the community. He worked with Alfred Peet (founder of Peet’s Coffee) to lay a firm economic foundation for the organization and was instrumental in finding ways to involve the private sector and encourage their investment in CIL’s mission.
Jim sat down and began sharing about when he first discovered TheCIL, saying, “At the University of California at Berkeley, I got a very strong sense of public service, and learned that the job of being in this world is not just to take care of yourself, but it's to make sure that you do something for somebody else along the way.” After his undergraduate studies, he went to Yale Law School, which reinforced that thought. “And then I went to a medium-sized law firm in San Francisco that also fostered public service,” he shared. “People in that law firm felt that one should do more than just be a lawyer. So, when I started practicing law, I immediately took on a couple of pro bono cases in the California Supreme Court.”
He continued, “Well, it [was time] to think about what else I wanted to do that's in the public interest.” So, he picked up the Berkeley Gazette, where he remembers first seeing “something called TheCIL, which worked with people with disabilities. They were having some kind of an auction a couple of blocks down from where I lived in Berkeley; I was on Telegraph Avenue at that time. That was TheCIL's headquarters, and I called and I went down there and that was the start. And from then on, it was totally inspiring.”
He eventually met Mr. Alfred Peet. He was the head of the Friends of CIL and invited Jim to go to his first Friends of CIL meeting. “CIL was having very deep financial problems at the time and it relied a lot on government money, I soon found out. Our new President Ronald Reagan, who by the way, was very much disliked by the disability community, had cut these monies from CIL, and what it meant was that there were tremendous budget cuts going on, almost an impossibility to make payroll. Mr. Peet, as he was called by the staff [as] a beloved figure, made payroll out of his own pocket a number of times.”
TheCIL in the middle of a transition and needed to move to the private sector very quickly, according to Jim, and Mr. Peet was in charge of saving a ship on its way down. “You were taking an organization that they had a budget of say, 3 million dollars and reducing it down to $900,000 or a million,” Jim explained. “And it's a heart-wrenching job, people have to be let go. You're mostly trying to make sure that the ship stays afloat.”
Jim was soon chosen to be Mr. Peet's successor to develop relationships with the private sector so that CIL would not be as reliant on public money.
“And so we started to gear up, to have more meetings, more friends, bringing more people and getting more people involved so that we could expand the financial resources that we had to go to, and started talking to foundations, started talking to the individual people about gifts and started an annual dinner that became a great success,” he shared. “What I found was once anyone got involved with CIL, they were there for all, for everything they had. They understood it's an extremely grassroots organization.”
Jim parted with some final words of wisdom: “And the thing that I would say for anyone who's listening to this is that it's not what you're giving, it's what you're getting. You always get more out of doing something for somebody else than you do if you do anything for yourself.”