40 Years of Love, Kindness, and Great Audits!
John Swanson faithfully served Echoing Hills for nearly 40 years. In May, the CFO/Executive Vice President and his wife, Denise, embarked on their newest adventure – retirement!
A Look at John’s Career
Before joining Echoing Hills, John worked at the Westin Hotel in Detroit, Michigan. Serving as their front office manager, the Westin was an upscale, 1,400-room hotel. After working for five years, John began considering other career opportunities. At the time, missionary work was of interest to him. He thought about moving overseas to work at another Westin, which would also allow him to find missionary opportunities. That is until a thought occurred to him.
“One day, I sat back and thought about everything we did at the hotel to ensure our customers were satisfied,” shares John. “I thought I should put that same energy into serving the Lord fully.”
At that time, John’s cousin worked at Echoing Hills. He had told John about opportunities at the ministry and encouraged him to look into it. John drove to Camp Echoing Hills one day, meeting and interviewing with Cordell Brown. Afterward, his cousin took him on a tour of Echoing Hills, the residential center on the same campus. It was a place that spoke to John’s heart.
“One of my brothers had a developmental disability. Growing up, he lived in a group home run by the state,” John recalls. “During my tour of Echoing Hills, I saw how vibrant everything was. It felt different. I immediately knew I wanted to be a part of this place.”
After a month of speaking with Cordell, John began his new career on Halloween Day, 1983. Starting as a Business Manager, John served in different financial roles throughout his years with the organization. He appreciates the belief Cordell had in him early on.
“I did not have CPA experience coming in,” John says. “Cordell took a chance on me. He saw that I had worked at the hotel for five years and asked if I could give him the same commitment. Although I wasn’t sure what my future looked like, I knew I could give at least five years to this opportunity.”
The Key to Staying
Almost 40 years later, John kept his word on the five-year commitment. And then some! What made him stay all of those years? John shares it comes down to four categories.
“Throughout the years, I had other career opportunities present themselves. Although there were other options, I never felt God releasing me from my work at Echoing Hills.”
“The mission pulled me in and kept me going. I love that every day there was an opportunity to show people the love of God and help them feel valued.”
“This career gave me and my family stability. I did not operate alone. Denise kept our life going at home. The longevity I had at work, I credit that to the work she did behind the scenes. Denise ensured everyone in our family found success.”
“You stay at places because of the people. I have worked with great teams over the years and witnessed God working through them. I was also blessed to work with three different Presidents/CEOs, each bringing their own gifts. Cordell started the ministry – he was the visionary. Buddy took the ministry from infancy to adulthood, and Tim is maturing the organization.”
Throughout his career, John witnessed a lot of successes. But what was his favorite accomplishment? A successful financial audit EVERY year. To John, this was both a blessing to the organization and a way to show all stakeholders that the organization cares and operates ethically. As John shares, “Echoing Hills is a Christian organization, and it is important to be the example. To represent Jesus through our words and actions.”
Now fully retired, it didn’t take long for John and Denise to begin enjoying the perks of retirement. In June, the two embarked on a two-week trip to Switzerland. A trip they both agree was one of their best yet.
“It felt safe, the people were friendly, and the food was great,” shares Denise. “We visited three areas bordering three different countries – Germany, France, and Italy. Each place was so different, and it was great to see the influences each of these bordering countries had on the culture of the cities.”
John and Denise have also enjoyed a recent trip to Seattle, visiting their son and his family. When home, they have been busy completing projects at their house and at a cabin they built up the hill from where they live.
“I thought it might be hard to adjust to retirement,” John reflects. “But, so far it has been a great experience!”