5 1/2 Months – Week 5

We got out of Bangor just in time!!! There is another, BIGGER, snowfall due Monday. We departed Bangor Airport  at 7:45am Sunday morning, arrived St, Louis at 2pm. After lunch and nice visit with Brent we were in the car at 4:15pm and on the road. Thanks to Mary for storing some of our winter clothes until we get back in town.

By Monday night, with the help of Paul Simon, Paul McCarthy, Tony Bennett, Lada Gaga, Jerry Garcia, Ray Charles, and Frank Sinatra, we traveled nearly 600 miles to Shamrock, Texas.

We passed the Big EGG (?) three times on the Hyway and then the egg driver truck happened to stop for the night where we did. He said he was not allowed to tell us what he was carting but it was traveling from NY to LA and we’ll see it on National TV soon.  Let us know if you figure out this mysterious package or if you see it on television.

We had a great steak dinner at an authentic Texas steak house– BIG VERN’S

Long drive today from Shamrock, Texas  to Flagstaff, Arizona. We had one interesting stop in Winslow, Arizona. Have you ever hear of the Harvey Girls? We stopped by to see La Posada, the last Great Railroad Hotel built by Fred Harvey. Never heard of Fred Harvey? Neither did we. Apparently, Fred Harvey was quite the entrepreneur in the 1930-40’s. He built luxury hotels along the railroad routes. Teddy Roosevelt, Jimmy Stewart and Gary Cooper were among the many celebrity guests at the La Posada.

The drive from Kingman, Arizona to Las Vegas through the Kaibab National Forest was awesome. We stopped briefly at the Hoover Dam. It is an amazing building accomplishment but not worth the stop, in my opinion, because of the tourist traffic is horrific.

We spent two nights in Las Vegas and took advantage of the O”Rourke’s new swimming pool and hot tub. The picture, taken by Nettie, is of my lifelong friend Terry and his wife Jo, Sandy and me. Terry and I have been friends since kindergarten. He and Jo, their dog Stella and Jo’s mom Nettie live in a beautiful Mountain View home. Jo had prepared our bedroom and bath like it was a high-end hotel. We enjoyed prime rib dinner at the South Point Casino and then we played a few games of chance at the Silverton Casino. I lost $35 and Sandy won $6 at the penny machine. We left the O’Rourke’s hospitality and friendship Friday morning for the drive to San Diego. The six hour trip through  the Mohave Desert, Death Valley, was highlighted by a lunch stop at Peggy Sue’s Diner located off Ghost Town Road in Yermo, California.    


5 1/2 Months- Week 4

Nancy Dunn, my sister-in-law, gave us a really nice practical gift. It’s a National Geographic Book- Guide to Scenic Highways and Byways. The book lists “the best 275 drives in the U.S.” Most of these byways are off the beaten track. They are literally the roads less traveled. And, although Sandy and I have been to all 50 States I could not count more than 40 of these “best” scenic drives that we have traveled.

Yesterday and today were special days. We left the main roads and traveled bumpy, pot-holed backroads of Maine to discover heaven. Monday we drove up through Ellsworth to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor to find the road to the top of Cadillac Mountain and the Jordan Pond were closed for winter. In fact, most of the restaurants and shops are closed too. So, we skipped the downtown walk along the beach for a scenic drive to Schoodic Point. Schoodic Point is a 2,266 acre reserve with a six mile drive along the windswept granite shores of the Schoodic Peninsula.  Awesome drive and amazing scenery—the pictures will not do it justice.

Tuesday was an equally fun day of driving and stopping for photo opps. We made the Deer Isle Drive. Departing Blue Hill on Hyway 15 we headed straight for Stonington which is a very small old fishing harbor town. There was little to see and not many stores open but luckily the main café was open. Crab soup, coffee and water is all we needed to sustain ourselves until dinner.

For the next few hours we rambled around the Penobscot Bay, Deer Isle area finding one quaint town after the next. The best find for sure was the Tinder Hearth Bakery located somewhere near Brooksville. We bought a round loaf of Maine whole wheat bread and a cookie for my afternoon pick-me-upper. This place must survive on the tourist season because it offers pizza only on Tuesday night if you call ahead to place an order and then come in to pick it up. There is no seating area for the Bakery….you walk in the door and there is the fired up hearth and all of the goodies for purchase. No one takes your money. You pay cash in a tin box and take change if you need it.

Oh, another highlight, we had a huge bald eagle circle in front of us at the tips of the trees as we started our drive south. This a clear sign from heaven that today is going to be a good day. And, it was!!!

I’m writing this from the Blue Hill Library. This afternoon Bangor is supposed to get hit with 10-18 inches of snow. We are looking forward to our first nor’easter since our days in Boston. Flights all up and down the coast are cancelled including our March flight connecting in Philadelphia. We feel like little kids. This will be FUN!

We got 15 inches. Snowed in. Our flights – 4 of them on March 8, were  cancelled. We can’t get out of Bangor until Sunday, March 11. So, we get more beautiful drives and more beautiful photo’s opportunities in Blue Hill, Bar Harbor, and Ellsworth. Today, we took advantage of this inconvenience by traveling to North Harbor, Maine which is located on Mountain Desert Island. We are now back to the Blue Hill Library because it is the most convenient place to get WiFi and have an opportunity to get all of our messages.

5 1/2 Month – Week 3

Blue Hill, Maine-morning view 2/28/18

At three-thirty this morning Sandy brings me a cup of coffee to begin the day. By 4PM, Karl arrives to take us to the airport. The American Eagle flight arrives via DC in Bangor Maine by 12:15 pm. Samantha picks us up and then we head to Mark’s Subaru dealership to pick up a new Outback for our week stay.

We dropped by to see Samantha and Chloe and spent time walking through their newly remodeled home, including the new Barn/Apartment for visitors. This is a beautiful place with a magnificent view of Blue Hill Bay. Mark, my nephew, bought a brand new John Deere tracker and gave it to his wife, Sam, for Valentines Day. He is some romantic guy. Funny thing is there is no need for a tractor here, but, Mark wanted it. That’s the way the Politte’s do things. It’s a hand-me-down family trait.

Wednesday–Sandy and I had a lovely scenic drive up to Belfast, Maine. Belfast is a small little town with an interesting ship making history. Now, it survives,somehow, on Tourist season revenue.

We just learned that our friends, Gerry and Sue, who were supposed to arrive in Bangor today had to cancel their trip due to the nor’easter hitting Philadelphia with 60 mile p/h winds. What a bummer! They were to spend four days with us in Maine. We had planned all kinds of side trips. Sandy has made two crock pot dinners for four. Now, we will have to endure this fantastic place without them.

We are headed to the LL Bean store in Ellsworth. Sunday, we will head to Acadia National Park and Bar Harbor. We’ve been to these places previously but you cannot get tired of visiting Acadia, Cadillac Mountain.

5 1/2 Months- Week Two



Week Two: Celebrating Tim’s 60th Birthday at Guido’s with Tim & Deb, Judi, Tom & Kathy and Sandy. We spent the night at Tim and Deb’s home in Illinois. Talk about a great B&B! We had a beautiful bedroom, brand new bath and shower. Tim prepared an awesome breakfast of eggs, bacon, hash-browns, blueberries, strawberries, English muffins,orange juice and coffee. We topped it off with Deb’s home made banana cream birthday cake. If you add the view over their pool and Lake Lorraine plus the good laughs with Tim and Deb all for the awesome price of $0.00 you end up with quite the bargain.

Sandy, Tim and I went to the Veterans Home to visit my 93 year-old father. He was in rare form. He can’t hear well and usually refuses to wear his hearing-aids. His eye-sight is poor and getting worse. He gets around FOR NOW in a motorized wheelchair. When he is headed to the cafeteria you better get out of his way. He has a reputation, and it’s not good. We had a good visit. All his body parts are failing but he still has his sarcastic sense of humor. He is ready for God to take him. God is thinking it over. We all wonder if Mom is holding up a NOT ALLOWED YET sign at the entrance to heaven.

We returned to Springfield via Jacksonville where we found the downtown square, a Ferris Wheel at the edge of a nice park and the Elma Mae Leonhard Wildlife Sanctuary. That pretty much covers every square inch of Jacksonville, Illinois with nothing more to report.

Monday night Nicole prepared a fantastic homemade Italian meatball pasta dinner with chocolate covered strawberries for desert. The rest of the week in Springfield is pretty much the same each day. After our morning coffee we head to Panther Creek CC for a one-hour workout and steam room sauna. Then, its lunch, read a book, write, and watch the Olympics after dinner. This is some life-style for two homeless gypsy’s in their seventies.

Today is the day—-we have been married for 50 years. We enjoyed celebrating with Sandy’s brother’s and sisters and the spouses. Thanks to Sally and Tom, Mimi and Tom, Jack and CeCe, Mary, Nancy and Judi for sharing the night with us at Schneithorst’s. As always, when we get together conversations and laughter exceed the sound barrier most other patrons scatter for a quieter place in the restaurant.

Saturday night the celebration continued with dinner at Favassa’s. Thanks to our friends Gerry and Sue, Jim and Eileen, Tom and Elsie, Mike and Karen for sharing the love. We will miss all of you as our travels get under way. Tuesday morning we will be traveling to Blue Hill, Maine. I;m looking forward to lots of good stories to share then.


Today We Begin a 5 ½ Month Journey, February 8, 2018

As most of the world knows by now, February 23, Sandy and I will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary.  I say “most of the world” because this morning Sandy told the grocery clerk in Springfield, Illinois all about our five and half month trip plans. This women, plus over 200 people at the Dorchester, all of our friends and relatives are aware of our anniversary date and plans through July. If each person will tell just one other, well, you know, word travels fast.

We have been considering a variety of travel options for most of the past year. At first, we were planning a trip to Italy and then a Viking Cruise through Germany ending in Amsterdam. Sounds awesome. Maybe next year.

Sandy came up with the idea of subleasing our apartment for a few months so that we could travel the US and then end up in the NW. We could then spend more time with our children and grandchildren who live north of Seattle.  She was tired of being a “Skype Grandma” and wanted to live near the kids for a few months to experience what it’s like to be a real grandma, not one who visits for a few weeks each year and one you can only see via Skype. Of course, that plan would allow me to be a real grandpa too. I’m all in.

Things have worked out well. We have sub-leased for four months through mid-July. We have planned a big SASH BASH 50th Anniversary party for July in Breckenridge, CO. All six kids, wives, husbands, significant others and all ten grandchildren will be there. So, from this day through the return to ST. Louis mid-July, I plan to write a daily blog highlighting some of the adventure.

We will be gone five and half months, 165 days, I believe. And, today is…

Wk1/Day 1: We arrived at Randy and Chris’ summer home in Springfield, Illinois, unloaded our things for a two week stay and relaxed before bed via a Netflix original. The next morning we enjoyed coffee with a spectacular view of Lake Springfield, ten deer passed through the open yard beyond the swimming pool, and at least 100 ducks and geese swam by in the lake. What a wonderful way to begin this journey.

Late morning, we enjoyed breakfast at Charlie Parker’s (must go to place), dinner with Craig at Boone’s Saloon, and on to watch Evan and SHG win a high school basketball game 62-56.

Wk1/continued: Thanks to the generosity of Randy and Chris this beautiful home on Lake Springfield will be home for the next two weeks. Saturday night I broiled steaks and vegetarian k-bobs on the outdoor bar-b-q pit even though it was 20 degrees with an ice storm just beginning. Craig, Nicole, Evan, Ella, Todd and Scarlet enjoyed a meal  and some laughs around the kitchen table set up to serve sixteen (that’s one long table). Todd and Scarlet braved the hot tub as the ice snow pelted down.

Sunday morning Todd and Scarlet left for St. Louis. The rest of the week was a bummer. Sandy had the flu from Sunday-Thursday. We laid low. Watched a lot of television. Good thing we had Winter Olympics and Netflix Originals to watch.

By Friday we had cabin fever. So, we acted like a Springfield, Illinois tourist. We started with a freezing walk along the lake at Lincoln Memorial Gardens—had the whole place to ourselves. No other visitors on a cold day like this. We got in two miles then headed to the Lincoln Museum. If you haven’t been there we recommend it. This is the best Civil War time period exhibit we have ever seen. After a light lunch at Wm. Van’s coffee shop we walked around the Lincoln family home neighborhood. And then, we wrapped up the day at the Adams Wildlife Sanctuary. How’s that for acting like tourist.

Tomorrow we are headed back to St. Louis to meet family for dinner on the Hill as we celebrate my brother Tim’s 60th birthday. That will end week one.




Is your organization sustainable after you’re gone?

I am writing this article with one organization in mind. However, I am hopeful that the thoughts, questions and challenges will apply and benefit many organizations, both non-profit and for profit.

The organization that I speak of was founded by a married couple twelve years ago, and it still thrives today. It was funded, in the beginning, with personal finances, the proceeds from the sale of their home and personal donations of friends and family. The female partner of this marriage was the original catalyst although today this is very much a WE project. She had years of professional experience serving a population of kids who were not receiving the advice and attention needed and deserved. She was so passionate about helping these kids who were having unsuccessful interventions from the traditional medical practices that she risked career and family to start a non-profit organization designed to make a difference.

These children served are overweight. They have low self-esteem. They are frequently ridiculed and bullied. They typically perform poorly in school. They have trouble making friends. They have occasional considerations of suicide. She knew what she had in mind would save children’s lives and would have successful outcomes.

Fast forward through twelve years of trial and tribulations, we find this organization has many documented successful interventions with more than 5,000 children and their families. They reach hundreds of thousands of people and offer expert advice about healthy eating habits, nutrition recommendations, emotional coping mechanisms, and physical activity via radio interviews, articles in publications, speaking engagements and public television documentaries. They have surrounded themselves with health and wellness expertise designing their curriculum with the help of doctors, physical therapist, registered dietitians, registered nurses, exercise physiologist, and personal fitness trainers. They have been recognized by the Cooper Institute and won awards from the National Institute of Health.

Today this organization operates a highly successful summer camp with all amenities located on 200+ acres of land that was recently donated to them. They have annual revenues from camp fees and donations near one million dollars per year. They are proud of all that they have accomplished, all of the people they have helped, all of the children who are now adults living successful healthy lives. But, with all of their success, is this organization sustainable? Can they survive twenty-five or more years after the original married couple have retired or passed on?

Let me offer this criteria for what it means to be “sustainable.”

Mission and Vision: Is the passion still alive?

All non-profit organizations have a Mission Statement and a Vision Statement. Only the best non-profit organizations are inspired by the Mission and Vision. Is your Mission and Vision powerful, dynamic, distinctive and inspirational? Is your Vision compelling and delivered in an effective way? Does your Board, staff, and financial supporters buy-in via the actions you desire and need? Are you thriving or drifting? Is the passion still alive?

Board of Directors and Volunteers: Do you have the right people on the bus? Are they motivated by the Mission and moving you forward toward accomplishing the vision?

Borrowing a question from Jim Collins book “Good to Great”, do you have the right people on the bus? Often, non-profit leadership in key staff positions or at the Board level can keep an organization from just achieving a few good things to really being all that they could be.

Are your Board of Directors members effective Ambassadors for the organization? Do they willingly offer financial support? Are they willing and able to influence other gifts?

Are your Board members Advocates for the enterprise? Do they recruit others to help out? Do they advance your story? Establish meaningful connections? Provide good oversight?

Do you have volunteers knocking on your door? Are they treated with the TLC they deserve?

Leadership and Staff: Do you have the right people on the bus? Are they motivated by the Mission? Are they serving clients with compassion? Are they reaching high expectations and getting desired results?

There is nothing more disabling to an organization than disgruntled employees. The time spent trying to retain and motivate a non-cooperative employee can destroy an organization’s effectiveness. One poor performer with a poor attitude can influence everyone in a bad way.

On the other hand, if you have a talented staff of capable people who have completely bought into the mission you have an opportunity to do great things. Talented positive people who have had an opportunity to join you in establishing worthwhile goals will invariably work beyond normal expectations to help you achieve near impossible objectives.

Brand Equity Can you take your brand to the bank?

As we know from old cowboy movies, a brand is a way of identifying ownership and an assortment of responsibilities and privileges that go with it. The rancher who put his brand on a calf was not only claiming it for his own, he was also accepting the burden of its care and feeding. The real brand was not the symbol burned into the animal’s hide… but, the persona behind it…the identity of both the ranch and the rancher.

A brand name represents a promise to all constituents and all stakeholders. What kind of “brand awareness”” does your brand enjoy today? How does the brand distinguish itself from competitors? Does the brand clearly communicate its benefits and attributes effectively?

Is there creative continuity and clearly understood language in all internal and external communications? Is your brand reputation “trusted?” How do you validate this trust?

Testimonials from Clients, Parents, and Donors:  Let their feedback inspire you.

Can you go to your website or to some printed materials to find many “testimonials” from customers, clients, parents, donors, strategic partners, colleagues and more who willing tell a convincing, truthful, inspiring story about who you are what you do?

If the answer is “YES,” great! If it is “NO,” do something, make it a priority.

Donor Loyalty: Are your donors still donating or are they making investments?

How well do you know your donors? Do you keep score? How many donors do you have? How often do they give? What motivates them to give? What is the average size of gift? Are your gift categories growing from year to year? What percentage of donors renew year after year? Are you growing gifts over $100, over $1,000, over $10,000, year after year?

Are you testing different tactics to grow revenue? Do you know what works? Are you investing more resources into development? Is your stewardship of donor resources excellent? Do you say “thank you” with sincerity and in a timely way?

One way for a non-profit organization who has been operational for ten years or more to determine if donors are willing to make an “investment” in this organization is to count their Planned Gifts, especially estate gifts.

Estate gifts usually provide larger amounts of money often set aside in reserves or in an endowment. Healthy non-profit organizations typically have 20% or more of their annual budget held in reserve.

And, by the way, a donor who gives you an estate gift is making an investment in your future. They believe what you do is important, and they believe you will be around for a long time.

Financials: Do you consistently hit your revenue goals and maintain adequate reserves?

What is your track record? For the past five-ten years do you consistently reach your fundraising goals? Do you occasionally receive a surprise large gift that inspires the organization? Have you ever received a transformational gift? Is your cash flow good? Do you maintain adequate reserves?


Have you created a “Culture of Philanthropy?”

The word “culture” is a refined understanding and appreciation for the attitudes and behavior characteristics of philanthropy. The word “philanthropy” comes from the Greek language. It means, “Love of humankind.” Philanthropy manifest itself on many levels: gifts of time, gifts of wisdom, and gifts of personal resources and giving by influencing community resources.

Has your organization established criteria and certain indicators to determine if you are creating a “culture of Philanthropy?”

When a donor calls your organization are they treated as if they have interrupted your work or as if they are the reason that you are able to do this work?

Is your organization consistently meeting and exceeding expectations? Are you considered a high functioning organization at all levels and by all accounts? Are you identifying weaknesses and taking action to improve? Have you created a desirable place to work?

And most important of all, are you good stewards of donor’s money? Have you invested wisely? Are you doing important meaningful work? Are you making a positive measurable impact? How do you know?

Now, I ask again, is your organization sustainable?



Dan Shasserre

President, CEO

SilverbackSTL Consulting








My Grand Plan- God is Still Laughing

“Commit your works to the Lord and your plan will be established” Proverbs 16:3

January 6, 2001 I attended a White House Retreat and wrote this my in notebook. “please help me design, plan and take action to benefit poor and vulnerable people served by Catholic Charities.”

January 2001 was a long time ago. January 2016 I just returned from my 30th White House Retreat. I didn’t know that I had attended 30 retreats until I returned home and was contacted by my friend Gerry Hempstead who stayed there through the fried chicken lunch to learn of this recognition. I left Sunday following the noon mass. I’ve had enough fried chicken to last a lifetime.  If I knew that I was going to receive this recognition I would have left, but with some guilt.

My first White House Retreat was in October 1978. Since then, the rooms have been upgraded significantly, the meals vary but not much, the Chapel and the grounds have remained nearly the same over time but the retreat experience has varied on every occasion. I should acknowledge that the White House grounds have been improved a lot through the years, but the magic of the place is the consistency–the same comforting format each year, the same insistence on silence throughout the day, the same high expectancy placed on a talented Jesuit priest placed there to guide the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius.

This particular retreat experience was the best in recent memory. Perhaps, this is because I have missed the past two years, January 2013 was my last retreat. I felt the need to go, not because I am holy but because I’m not. In fact, I felt the need to go to a retreat this year, not because of my faith but because of my lack of faith.

When preparing to leave for White House I found an old crucifix given to me long ago. I think it may have belonged to my deceased Uncle Jack. He was such a good Catholic man. The crucifix discovery helped me to realize how long it’s been since I’ve had a good conversation with Jesus. I’ve lost touch.

The purpose of a White House Retreat in my case, in the past, has been to help me  to clarify my thoughts, to cleanse my soul, and to energize my mind and body. This is the one place and the one time of the year when I would slow down from work long enough to hear God whisper in my ear. At times, His words of clarity strengthened my belief. In the dead of silence I felt greater conviction. There is a God and He cares.

This year I have no urgent work needs. I have retired from full time employment seeking only a few consulting projects of interest to me. So, I went to the retreat dedicating it to the needs of other family members. As I focused on their needs, not mine, clear images and thoughts inspired me. I decided to walk with Jesus all weekend. And, therefore, to let Him lead me wherever He wanted to go.

Jesus was born in sometime between 7BC-29AD. He lived to age 36 but was in ministry for little more than 2 years (three Passover’s). Imagine a person, whose father was a common carpenter, who lives in obscurity for 34 years, surfaces to create such an impact on his followers that 2000 years later in central message has survived. And, from twelve initial Disciples, His followers have grown to 2 billion people throughout the world. I am one who has chosen to believe.

A White House Retreat is where you have time to think about life’s most challenging questions. Why did God choose such ordinary people for his first Disciples? Did God create men in his image and likeness or did man create God in his? Is God the Creator or the Observer? If the world is billions of years old why did God wait so long before creating men and women? If God can create a perfectly designed universe why did He create so many imperfect human beings? What is your purpose in life? What does God want of me?

I have frequently pondered this last question. At times, it  has seemed obvious when God was actually involved in my life. Good things that came my way I attributed to Him.  He had answered my  prayer. I choose to believe it happens. At other times I felt disconnected. I was trying to accomplish all of my goals all by myself. I left Him on the sidelines. Things didn’t work out too well.

I enter this day with gratitude and with confidence that God will answer my prayers. My sons and daughters will seek and find what they are looking for…my wife will continue to be amazing. I will continue the journey with Jesus at my side.