Retire United Volunteer Profile: Meet Denny Stephens

Denny Stephens has been involved in United Way of Central Indiana for more than thirty years. We wanted to hear from him about what shaped his philanthropic endeavors and motivated him to stay engaged. Three decades later, he continues his connection through Retire United.


What initially inspired you to get involved in the community?


Seeing examples of others that had looked around and saw need for action to help those that needed it. My father and mother always quietly helped their family and neighbors without fanfare. I love the quote from Muhammad Ali who once said “Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.”


What’s your “Why?” that keeps you engaged in charitable activities, year after year?


I live for those moments that you connect on a personal level with others through service. Sometimes my volunteer projects entail working alongside people in back breaking, sweaty work, and sometimes it’s just a simple conversation with someone who needs a kind word. It’s really a form of selfishness on my part in that I genuinely feel good when I am helping others.


How has your approach to giving changed over the years?


Giving is comprised of time and treasure. While treasure has its value, I have learned it’s the time you put into something that pays the biggest benefits. But checks are always appreciated too.


Why do you choose to be involved with United Way?


United Way has such a rich history of helping our neighbors in need. I first became involved through my employer, Eli Lilly and Company, over 30 years ago. I learned that the roots of United Way of Central Indiana go deep into our community at so many different levels.


What advice would you give to the next generation of philanthropists?


Follow your passion in service. Seek out those that work in the areas you are interested in, learn from them and bring your strength to their strengths. Also, be open minded. I have learned about new organizations and unexpected opportunities through volunteering. A casual conversation can lead you down a path you had no idea existed.


What is your hope for the future of Central Indiana?


I have seen over the years a lot of work to provide a safety net or immediate support in a variety of ways for our neighbors in need. I have also seen a shift toward education, information sharing and skill-building programs to help our neighbors. I would love to see a continuation and expansion of that ideology across all our support programs in Central Indiana. This way we not only provide help for an immediate need but also the opportunity for our neighbors to grow and prosper into the future.