Mike Hollendoner knows all about the sibling rivalry that can exist between retail brokers and brokers in the fixed-income department. So when he started spreading the word around Dain Rauscher's Chicago office that he was collecting donations to help an organization called Airline Ambassadors, he didn't expect much from his institutional brethren down the hall.
Oh, ye of little faith.
"They were so responsive," Hollendoner says. "It was really touching."
The branch manager's administrative assistant helped Hollendoner post information about his fund-raiser on the company Intranet, and Hollendoner started gathering donations from brokers on both sides of the business. Some brokers chipped in $50, others ponied up $100, while others brought in children's clothing, soaps and medicine.
By the time Hollendoner was finished, he had accumulated enough money and supplies to fill five large duffel bags with the basic medical supplies and everyday essentials that most Americans take for granted: soaps, shampoos, bandages and the like. It took five people an entire day to sort everything out, says Hollendoner, who estimates the goods had a market value of about $25,000.
He then jumped on an airplane with four other Airline Ambassadors volunteers in June 2000 and hand-delivered the supplies to a children's hospital and an orphanage in Bucharest, Romania.
"Can you imagine going to a hospital in your hometown and bringing the head of that hospital bandages and syringes ... and him being grateful?" Hollendoner asks.
In Romania, the average salary is about $90 a month. The home Hollendoner stayed in cost $30 a night, including two meals a day, he says.
But Hollendoner says he couldn't have done it without the support of his colleagues. "I'm no hero," he says. "The heroes are the people at Dain Rauscher. It's all the work of responsible individuals going out of their way to help other people."
Hollendoner learned about the Airline Ambassadors program from his wife, Barbara, a flight attendant with American Airlines for the past 30 years. Airline Ambassadors (www.airlineamb.org) is a nonprofit organization founded by American Airlines flight attendant Nancy Rivard in 1997. Its purpose is to encourage flight attendants and other professionals to volunteer their time delivering aid to needy countries and escorting children traveling to other countries for surgery. Since its inception, the group has delivered more than $5 million in humanitarian aid.
In addition to contributing to a worthy cause during his Romania trip, Hollendoner says he also satisfied his wanderlust during the five days there. He loves to travel and sometimes hops a plane on the spur of the moment for a week in Africa or other exotic destinations. So, his itinerary will probably include more trips for Airline Ambassadors in the future.
"I've been fortunate in this business," says the 30-year securities industry veteran. "Maybe it's time to start giving back."