The Do-Gooder Option

More people are taking an early detour from the corporate world into volunteerism

S. Smith Patrick / Civic Ventures

Gary Maxworthy at the San Francisco Food Bank in May 2007.

When Gary Maxworthy's wife passed away in 1993, he began to ponder his own mortality and the imprint he would one day leave on the world. He was 56. The kids were grown. "I was never really motivated by money," he says. "I like to make things happen." So he gave up a six-figure salary in the food-distribution business and launched the nonprofit Farm to Family, which this year will deliver 34 million lbs. of fresh produce for free to low-income neighborhoods throughout California.

Maxworthy is part of a small movement of folks leaving a solid career at mid-life to rediscover...

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