Years ago, Brendan Paget and his wife Stephanie were attending church when they heard a verse exhorting the faithful to help orphans and widows. The message touched them, as they were then exploring the process of adopting a child — but, they wondered, “How do you help widows?”

An online search brought up Safe Harbor. It wasn’t exactly what the Pagets had in mind, but they thought it looked like a worthwhile charity. “And so we donated,” Brendan said. That began a decade-long relationship with Safe Harbor.

As Brendan continued to support Safe Harbor financially, Executive Director Cathy Easter asked if he’d like to do more. He began organizing volunteers from his employer, Allianz Partners, to assist with hands-on projects. Brendan’s teams have deep-cleaned a transitional shelter house and helped to paint and organize our counseling office at Housing Families First in the east end of Henrico County, among other tasks.

In 2016, Easter invited Brendan to consider board service and the board approved him to join Safe Harbor’s board of directors. He eventually became vice president and then president for three years, extending his tenure during the upheaval of COVID-19.

As board president, Brendan was known for coaching other members on how to successfully raise funds. Prepare and practice a 30-second elevator speech, he advised them. And always remember, “What is your why?” In other words: Why do you care about Safe Harbor?

His approach worked. Over the years, many board members have said to him: “When someone asked me, ‘What is Safe Harbor?’, I had my why ready!”

During his board service, Brendan always enjoyed celebrating Safe Harbor’s supporters and volunteers. He was instrumental in creating our annual Beacon of Hope event. “It’s so humbling for me to be the next nominee,” he says, praising the staff and volunteers who give their time and talent to help survivors.

Brendan has been a tireless ambassador for Safe Harbor. “He would wear his Safe Harbor T-shirt every Friday to work at Allianz,” Easter says. “His goal was to initiate conversations about our work when co-workers asked about what we did.”

Brendan has always been supportive of both the executive director and of the work of the agency. Under his leadership, Safe Harbor experienced significant growth both financially and programmatically, thanks to his clear vision and engaging personality.

When Safe Harbor first began working with survivors of human trafficking, Brendan attended a training on the topic. He remembers seeing a succession of police photos taken of survivors — photos that showed the effects of abuse and despair. “The pictures got worse,” he said. And then, he realized: “It’s the same person, descending into different levels of trauma.”

Few realize how many people are being abused and trafficked right here in Richmond, he says. That’s why “we’ve got to lean in. We’ve got to keep doing work in this space.”