By Tom McCarter, Western Region
I am honored to be chosen to write this. Former MDI President Charles Gjers has been a friend, a mentor, a teammate, and a leader for me since I moved to Northern California and became part of MDI here in 1994. I have also served under him in various capacities, as a Board Director, International S1, Event Manager for the first Men’s Convention, and PTM for Basic Leadership Training. Each position was an opportunity for growth, bringing my standards to a higher level under Charles’ guidance.
I remember several years ago when Charles stood out in front of our Division and told us he needed to make a decision about where he was going to put his energy. He couldn’t do everything he wanted to do in service in the world. He was a successful businessman. He had been happily married for a number of years. He had been sober for about 30 years and had served on the board for Narcotics Anonymous. At the time, he was on the MDI Board of Directors, as well. Something had to give. I was really worried that he was about to announce that he was severing ties with MDI. I knew how committed he was to his sobriety and the success of NA. Charles and I had been on a sober men’s team together for a couple of years. As it turned out, Charles chose MDI, and we are all the beneficiaries of that decision.
Charles went on to become Chairman of the MDI Board and brought the Board up to become a dynamic organization that was actively involved in the success of MDI. Under Charles’ leadership, the Board started working with the Operations side of the organization. Charles worked closely with Howard Spierer who was President at the time. One of the outcomes of this partnership was the Success for Men Summit Convention in Las Vegas, which MDI put on for three years. Charles also took time during his tenure on the Board to lead a couple of Point Teams.
Charles then became President of MDI. He continued to strengthen the bond between Operations and the Board. He recognized that, while the men in MDI do a lot of great work in their communities, MDI needed a central purpose which it would be known for. Charles chose to end abuse in all forms. This purpose has created new and diverse opportunities for men to serve their communities.
Somewhere during this time, Charles was diagnosed with a life-threatening cancer, but he didn’t stop working. He still gave his best. At one point, while we were participating at a leadership conference, his house burned down, but he didn’t let it slow him down. He is committed to his goals and he cares deeply for the men.
Not everyone who aspires to become a Division Coordinator will become one. DCs are elected by their men, and sometimes other men are chosen. Charles has never been given the opportunity to lead in that capacity. Fortunately, there are many other opportunities to serve in MDI. Charles has been a Division Point Team Manager and Regional Point Team Manager. For several years, Charles also led Basic Leadership Training in the Western Region. He has probably held other leadership positions I am not aware of.
Charles is also an ordained minister and has performed marriages for several men in MDI over the years. Charles officiated my marriage to my wife. That was 7 years ago and people still tell me it was one of the best weddings they have attended. You can’t just hire Charles. He interviews each couple to make sure they are ready to be married. If he accepts that they are, he uses anecdotes from the interview in the service, making each wedding very personal.
I was working on a community project one day, fixing up a house of a former member who had become very ill, and I met a woman who told me she was one of Charles’ previous wives. What struck me was that she seemed to be proud that she had been associated with Charles. There was no bitterness. It turns out that Charles actively engages all of his family and brings them together over the holidays.
Charles has registered over 100 men into the Men’s Weekend and he hasn’t stopped. He has also been inducted into the MDI Hall of Honor. His son, Matthew, has been DC for our Division. He is also married to a terrific woman.
Charles exemplifies being the man he has always wanted to be. He is living into that possibility. Each aspect of his life contributes to every other aspect: family>work>service to the community>volunteering in leadership with the men>sobriety. He is a true masculine leader and he has created a foundation for us all to stand on.