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Alford, who worked with BGA and Boys & Girls Clubs, dead at 69

Jimmie Alford

Jimmie Alford

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Updated: January 22, 2013 10:14AM

Jimmie Alford took a job in college to earn money for tuition and found his calling in life.

While earning his psychology degree, Alford began working in 1962 as a counselor for the Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago, then continued on with the nonprofit agency for 16 years.

He later started his own consulting firm that helped nonprofit groups in Chicago and across the country improve their fundraising and their services.

“He believed profoundly in the goodness of giving,” said Jim Keane, president and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago.

Alford died Tuesday at his Chicago home after an apparent heart attack. He was 69.

Though he had sold his business, Alford Group Inc., in 2006, he continued working with Chicago-area institutions that included the Better Government Association, his alma mater, North Park University, and the Boys & Girls Clubs.

“He had energy that was endless,” said his wife, Maree Bullock, recounting how he still exercised daily, read constantly and never forgot a fact or a detail.

Alford was raised in Kentucky and was the first member of his family to attend college.

He began working at the Boys & Girls Clubs during his freshman year to pay for college, but the job — which at times included encouraging teens to leave behind gangs and violence — quickly became a labor of love, his wife said.

“He’d go the extra mile and the kids just loved him,” said Bullock. “His heart led him to help people.”

Her husband could talk to anyone because he approached everybody the same way —“as human beings,” Bullock said.

“He would treat the humblest person the same way he’d treat the president of the United States,” Bullock said.

But his passion for his work prompted people to donate their time — and their money — to groups that needed help.

“He had a phenomenal ability to raise money and inspire people to become involved,” Bullock said.

Alford was frequently recognized for his work with nonprofit groups, including twice being cited as one of the 50 most influential people by Nonprofit Times, an industry journal.

In October, he was honored by the Better Government Association with a lifetime achievement award for his work advising the group.

“He had an ability to work with different people in complicated situations and help them reach really favorable outcomes,” said BGA President Andy Shaw.

Alford succeeded using an “old-fashioned courtliness” that defused problems and disagreements.

“He never lost his temper, never raised his voice, never disrespected anyone,” Shaw said, describing him as “one of a kind.”

Alford remained involved throughout his life with North Park University, including serving on its board of trustees and working with its Axelson Center for Nonprofit Management.

He also served as executive-in-residence at the college, teaching graduate classes and workshops.

“He just had this great fondness for life,” recalled Dr. David Parkyn, North Park president. “Jimmie said you found significance through service. How he achieved personal fulfillment was through service to others.”

Other survivors include daughter Ann, sons Alan and Joshua, and two grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday at the First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple. Visitation begins at 1 p.m.

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