“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”
– Winston Churchill
At Voit Real Estate Services, our company culture has always prioritized community involvement. Our founder, Bob Voit, was instrumental in creating the West Valley Chapter of the Boys & Girls Club. Our employees continue to donate their time and dollars to the programs offered by the chapters throughout Southern California and a wide range of other philanthropic organizations.
During this season of giving, Voit Real Estate Services would like to recognize two individuals, Senior Vice President Brian Mulvaney and Executive Managing Director Eric Northbrook, for their decades-long commitment to philanthropic work. Both have donated the most precious of commodities — their time — and raised significant funds for organizations devoted to improving the quality of life for others.
Mr. Mulvaney has dedicated himself to making a positive impact on people’s lives, primarily through his work with three organizations: Father Joe’s Villages, which provides help to individuals experiencing homelessness and poverty; Boys to Men, which mentors at risk or less fortunate teenage boys on the path to manhood; and the San Diego Humane Society, which provides no kill animal sheltering, adoption, and veterinary care.
Giving back is a family tradition for the Mulvaneys. His father, James Mulvaney, Sr., was the Chairman of the Board for Father Joe’s Villages, the largest non-profit and the only comprehensive homeless service provider in San Diego County. Father Joe’s operates facilities that house over 2,500 people every night while working diligently on innovative solutions to end homelessness. Brian’s brother, Jim Mulvaney, Jr., also served on the Board of Directors for 30 years. Brian currently serves as a member of the management board and the properties committee. He is now in the midst of his annual blanket drive for the organization, which he has spearheaded for six years.
“Father Joe would come over to our house every other Saturday to get things started, and our family has been involved with the organization for a very long time,” says Mulvaney. “Father Joe’s is probably the leader in the United States for creating programs designed to get people off the street and to provide an actual solution for the homeless problem. That includes programs for education, rehabilitation, psychological and medical help, so it’s not just providing a place for somebody to stay. We’re trying to help people get back on their feet. We work with families that are having trouble, and we do a lot of work with the veterans as well.”
Boys to Men Mentoring Network is a San Diego-based grassroots organization that mentors teenage boys aged 12-17 and currently serves over 1,000 boys across San Diego County. Founded in 1996 by Herb Sigurdson (the former executive director of Father Flannigan’s Boys Town), Joe Sigurdson, and Craig McClain, the program has expanded to 22 cities in six countries. Boys to Men provides a community of men willing to listen, encourage, and empower teenage boys who need guidance.
“We send men into the public schools weekly to speak with and listen to the boys — many of whom do not have fathers — as they’re entering adolescence and work with them to try and get them through high school, to keep them off drugs and to keep them out of prison,” says Mulvaney. “A lot of these boys face abandonment, abuse, and neglect. They’ve got low self-esteem and end up in gangs. We try to help them figure out what will help them become the men they want to be, and we’ve got a system and a program that works. It really should be in every city.”
Mulvaney says he initially began as a donor but became more involved as a mentor about ten years ago, going into schools and working with the boys. Since COVID began, he has become a team leader for the weekend “rite of passage” mountain adventure retreats designed to provide the boys with a framework to address their various issues. He also works diligently on fundraising for Boys to Men, participating in the “100 Wave Challenge” since 2015 at Mission Beach, where sponsored participants attempt to surf 100 waves in one day. This fall, the event raised over $260,000 for the organization in one day, with Brian raising over $35,000 himself. “We don’t have a big budget, and there’s not a CEO making a $500,000 salary,” he says. “People are just really committed to what they’re doing.”
Mulvaney has also been involved with the San Diego Humane Society for the last decade, using his professional skill set to help them with their real estate and facilities needs. So why does he stay so involved with so many philanthropic endeavors? “I think that helping others creates happiness internally,” he says.
On January 27, 2006, Eric Northbrook’s life took an unexpected turn. He and several broker friends had submitted the winning bid at a charity fundraiser for a three-day off-road adventure in Baja California. During that trip, he lost control of his motorcycle and crashed. “I went down, and I knew I was paralyzed instantly,” recalls Northbrook. “My first thought was that God has a different plan for me.”
He had broken his right scapula and ten ribs and suffered a skull fracture, paralyzing him from just below the chest down. After a grueling nine-hour trip to the trauma center, he spent 30 days at the Scripps Hospital in San Diego, then was flown to the Craig Hospital in Denver, an intensive spinal cord and traumatic brain rehabilitation center, where he remained for five-and-a-half months. There, Northbrook took his first steps toward turning his tragic accident into a pathway to helping others. “I gained a lot of perspective going to Craig Hospital because they treat traumatic spinal cord injuries. There were many people there who were a lot worse off than I was, so I was extremely thankful that I still had cognition and was able to speak and carry on a normal conversation.”
Eric, while still rehabilitating at Craig Hospital, learned that the mother of a boy who had suffered a spinal cord injury needed financial help to buy an accessible van and made a sizable donation to make that happen. Soon after, he founded the nonprofit organization HeadNorth, which provides essential support and resources to individuals and families affected by spinal cord injuries. They provide wheelchairs, ramps, bathroom remodels, and other medical equipment, as well as providing mentorship to the injured and their families.
“I made lemonade out of lemons,” says Northbrook. “Steve Rosetta, my business partner at the time, started collecting checks, and before I knew it, I had $300,000. Then, we did a golf tournament and raised another half a million. We’ve raised over $3 million, and we’ve now helped over 550 families with spinal cord injuries in San Diego County.” In 2016, the organization officially became the HeadNorth Fund at the Sharp Healthcare Foundation and is actively involved in spinal cord research, partnering with the Sanford/Burnham Institute and UCSD to create the HeadNorth Chronic Spinal Cord Research Project.
Before the accident, Northbrook had been dedicated to fitness. He ran a marathon and 15 half-marathons and was training for a half-Ironman competition consisting of a 1.2-mile swim, a 56-mile bike ride, and a 13.1-mile run. “After the accident, it took me a couple of years to get my spirit back,” says Northbrook. In 2008, he was introduced to the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF). This San Diego-based organization provides opportunities and support to people with physical challenges so they can pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competitive athletics. While doing the La Jolla Rough Water Swim in 2008, a friend, Fred Liebel, introduced him to handcycling, where the arms rather than the legs power the bicycle.
“I can honestly say that the Challenged Athletes Foundation and handcycling saved my life,” says Northbrook. “I had a lot going on in my brain, and it was like a form of cheap therapy because the only thing I think about when I’m riding my bike is riding my bike.” By 2011, he entered his first Million Dollar Challenge for the organization, a 620-mile handcycle ride from San Francisco to San Diego held to raise funds. Since then, he has completed five additional runs, raising nearly $200,000 for CAF, including $62,600 this past October.
The Spirit of Giving
The selfless contributions of Mulvaney and Northbrook are a powerful reminder of how individuals dedicating their time and resources can improve the lives of others. At Voit, this spirit of giving reflects our company philosophy. We embrace the social and economic responsibilities that encourage community growth by supporting a wide range of local philanthropic organizations, embodying the true essence of this Christmas season.
For those interested in learning more about or donating to any of the organizations mentioned in this article, use these links: Father Joe’s Villages, Boys to Men Mentoring Network, San Diego Humane Society, the HeadNorth Fund at the Sharp Healthcare Foundation, and the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF).