Anatomy of a Volunteer


How Making the Commitment Brings Meaning and Satisfaction

Mark McDonald has led a meaningful life. With dual Master’s Degrees from UCLA in Urban Planning and Latin American Studies (he once lived in and owned a restaurant in Brazil), he is now in a Master’s program in Gerontology at USC, largely because of his volunteer work at the Alzheimer’s Association.

The three things he most wants people to know about the Alzheimer’s Association are that they are the largest non-profit, non-governmental funder of research for a cure; Association staff and leadership are smart, committed, caring individuals that he is proud to work with; and that there are many different ways to volunteer. “It is a staff/volunteer model,” McDonald shared with GB Magazine, “with a wide range of areas where help is needed. Not only in development, but educators, support group moderators and more.”

Among the ways he has volunteered has been a two-time chairperson for the “Walk to End Alzheimer’s,” a frequent participant in “The Longest Day,” the Alzheimer’s Association’s “create-your-own” annual fundraiser, and as Association Ambassador to State Senator Ben Hueso in Sacramento and Congressman Juan Vargas in Washington D.C.

Katie Croskrey, executive director or the Alzheimer’s Association’s San Diego/Imperial Chapter, has high praise for McDonald. “Mark brings the drive and passion needed to be successful as a volunteer,” Croskrey says. “His family history of losing his mother to the disease on New Year’s Day in 2009 brought him to us, and his remarkable fortitude in the face of other challenges shows his commitment to the Association’s vision of a world without Alzheimer’s and other dementia.”

Regarding his mother, McDonald explains, “It was extremely difficult to watch someone we loved so much lose her cherished memories. My sister, Martha Dent, had the burden of being her caregiver, for which I am eternally grateful. After seeing a commercial about the Walk to End Alzheimer’s one day on TV, clarity set in. I started volunteering with the Walk, but more and more ways to help kept emerging. I have been a volunteer for the Alzheimer’s Association for more than seven years now.” Mark McDonald currently sits on the chapter’s Board of Directors, and volunteers with several other nonprofit organizations in San Diego. He is also on the Board of the San Diego Association of Insurance Professionals, where he serves as Community Action Chair.

He and his wife Ilvene, when not enjoying life at home in their quiet coastal community, have been partners in much of their charitable work. “She is my biggest supporter,” Mark says with a smile. “We are at our best and highest selves when we are contributing to something bigger than ourselves and being part of the mission to create a world without Alzheimer’s. It is one of the greatest things I have done in my life. Thanks to the Alzheimer’s Association for the opportunity to be involved, and to those thinking of becoming a volunteer, I am grateful I made that call seven years ago just to find out what was available.”

If you are interested in volunteering please vist or call the Alzheimer’s Association at (619) 678-8332.

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Kamran Saeed