Gary’s Vision

50 Years 50 Stories

Gary’s Vision was first shown at last week’s 50th Anniversary Gala. At the event, it was actually shown before the video we shared last week. In this context, it serves as a nice bookend to Part One of Raul’s interview with Gary, which we posted a few weeks back.

This video tells the story of Gary Leofanti’s vision for Aunt Martha’s. It’s a vision he helped to plant – thankfully – in so many of our brains.

A Vision for Social Change

25-year old Gary Leofanti had just wrapped up his first official meeting as Park Forest’s new youth worker when he was asked about the relevance of his background in business and economics. That background, he said was an asset.

“Economic planning is a big consideration in implementing social change,” Leofanti said, according to the Park Forest Star on Sunday, March 5, 1972.

“If one can create a big enough demand for something, eventually it will get implemented.”

Gary’s Vision

An Experienced Change-Maker

Mr. Leofanti didn’t come to Park Forest with vision and education alone. He knew the kind of opportunity he was looking for. He found it and was willing to pay handsomely to move on it. In Park Forest he found a, “a community that was ready to do some things.”

It was his expeience, in fact, that made Gary attractive to Park Forest. He was the director of a youth-oriented hotline and drop-in center in suburban Detroit. He earned that experience at Crossroads crisis information center in River Rouge, MI.

Ultimately, the young social worker’s business background would be as important as his on-the-ground experience. And in a way, he laid the earliest foundation for the concept of value-based social work. He told the Park Forest Star another similarity between business and social work is that the main goal of business is a monetary profit while social work projects aim for profit in a sense too.

“Better service to the people or as in the case of Crossroads, better service to youth,” is the type of profit that social workers seek, he said.

Gary's vision and impact are described by Dr. Pat Robey, a former volunteer worker at Aunt Martha's

Aunt Martha’s is what it is today because of the vision of Gary but all the people who worked with him and who have followed him.

– Dr. Pat Robey, Former Volunteer

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