HAVE YOU LIVED IN PALO ALTO YOUR WHOLE LIFE?
I was born in Ohio, but my family moved here when I was 3 and I went to Green Gables (now Duveneck), Jordan, (now Greene), and graduated from Paly in 1987. The same 3 schools my own children have gone to. We currently have a Freshman and Senior at Paly. I went to college at UC San Diego and I came straight back after graduation. I’m a mama’s boy, knew I wanted to go into real estate, so starting to work for my mom, (longtime Realtor Imogene Chancellor), was an easy decision. She told me: ‘I want you to know there is no nepotism here.’ Within a year we became full-time partners. We worked together from 1994 until she retired in 2013.
WHY DID YOU WANT TO RAISE YOUR FAMILY HERE?
My wife was raised in Denmark. One day she said to me: ‘You had the happiest childhood of anyone I know.” I have traveled a lot and I lived abroad in college, so I have seen many places.There is no perfect place, but I was comfortable here and my parents and my brother lived here. I knew this was a special place, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with issues. We do have ‘isms’ here and it is a fast place and, for some people, it moves too fast. I’m accustomed to the pace and I like the international flavor you get here. My clients and our social group of friends are like the United Nations. You have so many different schools of thought here and we all know that a greater level of diversity makes everything better.
YOU SERVED ON THE PACF BOARD FROM 2012 – TO 2021 AND YOU ESTABLISHED THE ANNUAL PACF POKER PARTY, WHICH IS A FAVORITE OF MANY OF OUR DONORS. WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO HOST IT?
Scott Joachim (former PACF board member) and I thought it would be a great opportunity to bring people together socially to have a good time and support a local organization. Every year people who come tell us this is the most fun fundraiser they go to. People have fun playing poker and socializing, and feel good because they are doing something positive for others in the process. We have been doing it for 6 years now.
IS THERE SOMETHING ABOUT PACF THAT INSPIRES YOU MOST TO KEEP GIVING?
The people who are involved in PACF work so hard and are so inspiring to me. There are many volunteers who could choose to do many things with their time and they spend hours and hours each week on PACF. The grants process is also very rigorous and they dive deep into the applications. PACF was one of the first funders of the Downtown Streets Team which is now in a couple of other states. This showed me that we can really push some of these programs forward which is very exciting.
ARE THERE OTHER ORGANIZATIONS THAT YOU SUPPORT?
Through my work, I support our company Sereno’s “One Percent for Good,” which means I donate 1 percent of every paycheck to a fund that goes to local organizations, including Dream Catchers, Kid Power, and Pets in Need. Company wide, we have given $4.7 million to 350 organizations since 2012. My wife and I also personally support several other organizations, like Human Rights Watch, Equal Justice Initiative and Facing History.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE PACF WILL ACHIEVE IN THE LONG TERM?
My hope is that PACF will be a model for community funds around the country and throughout the world. PACF pivoted so quickly and strongly during the pandemic, it was truly extraordinary. We showed we can help people here socially and economically. PACF is truly impactful, thoughtful, and respectful of the people they assist.
DO YOU HAVE A MESSAGE FOR DONORS OR POTENTIAL DONORS?
For all the wealth here, people could be doing so much more philanthropically. I’m not here to shame anyone, but my wish is for every household to give just a little to PACF, because if they did, it would have a huge and immediate impact. For every grant we fund, there are two we can’t fund which is so frustrating. The grant applications process pulls at your heartstrings – you want to do more, but we don’t have enough money. It wouldn’t take much for each household to give just a little to help make big changes in others’ lives.