The Extraordinary Possibilities in Ordinary People

"Democracy is based on the theory that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people."

This was the quote leading Jim Doody's comments as he helped to dedicate the Western Slope Vietnam War Memorial on July 4, 2003. "That's me!" he said.

Indeed, it is he. Jim is my favorite "Joe Six Pack" - a term used in political circles referencing an average citizen - exemplified by his long ponytail, Harley motorcycle and employment at CoorsTek.

I have had the genuine privilege of watching and helping Jim to become the community Hero of the Day through his extraordinary commitment, moxie and right motive in building the War Memorial. Jim did it - not single-handedly, of course - by being THE person to catalyze and prod the effort from start to beyond finish.

In my nearly 18 years of watching the day-to-day work of hundreds of community endeavors, I have seen but a few extraordinary successes. As my dad has always told me, "The difference between good and great seems quite small, but in fact it is huge."

From the outside, it is sometimes hard to identify a truly extraordinary effort. Plus every tenacious and successful person has detractors. But here are five more "ordinary people" that come to mind when I think of extraordinary possibilities:

With a slight twist on a popular saying, I introduce you to Russ Schuckman at Marillac Clinic in Grand Junction, Colorado: "Behind every great woman, there's a man." Russ has been the soft-spoken, behind-the-scenes fund raising guy for three successive, great female executive directors at the Clinic. He now is responsible for raising nearly $4 million every year to support 20,000+ medical, dental and mental health care visits for low-income families and individuals. Add this to a major capital expansion in 2003. Marillac Clinic is extraordinary because of people like Russ - again, not working alone, but as a purposeful catalyst.


How do you get a state legislature to take on your cause as one deemed worthy of significant funding? And not just for a season, but on an on-going basis? At the same time, how do you develop a cutting edge training method and statewide network of providers? Ask Kevin Smith of Literacy New York. Home-grown in Buffalo, Kevin has made huge impact throughout New York, making certain that millions of dollars in State funds, as well as quality programming, are available in large and small communities. He and his cast of characters (and I don't use this phrase loosely) are meeting the changing face of illiteracy, serving adult learners who are immigrants, the developmentally disabled and other often disenfranchised peoples.


The dynamic duo of Julia Hall and Peter Trosclair at KAFM in Grand Junction has, from their pre-history to today, done everything right and in a very methodical and professional manner. The local treasure that is this community radio station has gone from selling future air to current air, blowing the top off of listener fund drive and satisfaction survey goals. All while other nonprofits are whining the ever-popular "bad economy" blues. Their no-nonsense approach to arts programming truly is extraordinary, and you don't know anyone having more fun than Julia and Peter.


Sometimes the simple selflessness of an individual's effort is what makes it extraordinary. Case in point is Georgia Hopper of Hotchkiss, Colorado. Georgia and her husband raised their severally autistic granddaughter Amber from the age of two. This 70-something woman knows that they will not be able to care for Amber for the rest of their lives - and certainly not for the rest of hers - so Georgia now is battling with the State for licensing and trying to secure funding for Amber House, a residential care facility for autistic adults. At full operation, up to 27 autistic adults and their families will benefit from the Amber House setting and programs, providing them the greatest quality of life they can attain. While her contemporaries are using their retirement to improve a golf game or RVing from one national park to another, Georgia Hopper will make Amber House a reality or will die trying. In my view, that is extraordinary.

Strong Leaders / Strong Stories

Strong leaders have strong stories, and a solid sense of "self" as a leader.  But too often, even strong women view themselves or are perceived as being very good at "getting things done," but not as valuable strategic resources. What can you do to change this?  Find Out More Here