Moving Mountains

 

It’s no wonder Doug Pitt starts his workday at 7:30am. With all that he strives to accomplish in 24 hours, it’s surprising he gets any sleep at all.

 

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Any given morning gets underway at his successful IT business, ServiceWorld Computer Center in Springfield, MO, but it could quickly veer off with a phone call about Care to Learn, the nonprofit he started with his brother, Brad, (yes, that Brad) to address health, hygiene and hunger among Ozark schoolchildren. Or maybe he’ll get caught up in correspondence about a water project in Africa. His deep involvement in the social venture company WorldServe International has helped bring wells and community development to thousands of Tanzanians‰ÛÓan avocation that has earned him recognition as the country’s Goodwill Ambassador and created opportunities to introduce Americans to the cause through his humanitarian adventure trips (the most recent group included the likes of Joe Buck and Chris Danforth).

Then there’s Pitt’s new association with TSI Global Companies, a St. Charles-based provider of communications network solutions to clients ranging from Busch Stadium to Monsanto and Edward Jones. Pitt opened a TSI Integrated office in his Springfield hometown to build on the ServiceWorld foundation, but the venture also regularly brings him back to St. Louis, his birth town, giving him an excuse to browse in The Loop or play with his kids at City Museum.

Throw in speaking engagements, boards, awards, hobbies in real estate development and photography and‰ÛÓalways first on Pitt’s mind‰ÛÓhis wife, Lisa, and their three children, and it’s easy to see how this overachiever could be the very definition of “overextended.” But Pitt has already tested the limits of his endurance and backed away from that precipice. “There’s only so much bandwidth in an individual, ” says the 46-year-old, who burns stress by mountain or road biking a couple of times a week. “I’ve had the experience of spreading yourself too thin,where you’re kind of good at a lot of things, but not great at much.”

By all accounts, Pitt is great at a lot of things‰ÛÓ listening, envisioning creative solutions to complex problems, networking, fundraising, multitasking, strategic thinking, motivating a team‰ÛÓeven texting while biking.

“It was his enthusiasm that got me up the mountain,” says Joe Buck, a reluctant outdoorsman, of his arduous five-day trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro with Pitt. (The most intrepid adventurers then biked down the mountain, thanks to special permission granted just for Pitt’s expedition.) “It just felt like a group that everybody was pulling for one another, and it was because of Doug’s devotion to the project. I’d do anything for the guy.” It seems he’s not the only one.

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THE FUNDRAISER

Back home in Missouri, it’s been a milestone year for Care to Learn, which just turned five and celebrated fulfilling more than 185,000 needs‰ÛÓeverything from toothbrushes and sanitary products to food and clothing. “I love seeing the results that are happening now,” Pitt says. “Seeing volunteers coming together and making that happen, it just charges you.”

The organization, now 11 chapters strong, grew out of faceless statistics related to hardship among Springfield-area children. Pitt shared the information with his brother, and within days, The Brad Pitt‰ÛÒJim D. Morris Fund was meeting those children’s needs.

Executive Director Morey Mechlin remains impressed by Pitt’s unconventional approach. “Care to Learn started because he heard staggering statistics about poverty in his hometown. Many, including me, were well aware of the situation, but Doug wasn’t afraid to ask questions and take action,” she says. “He listens intently‰ÛÓeven though he may be texting at the same time, drives me crazy!‰ÛÓand has a fresh way of visualizing solutions…and that is why Care to Learn is so successful.”

Though Pitt describes his main challenge with Care to Learn as the “merry-go-round of fundraising,” he is adamant that the children who receive the aid not be identified publicly‰ÛÓor even be introduced to him privately.

“We serve a lot of physical needs, but it’s really about self-esteem. I love the fact that these kids can walk into school with not a hand-medown pair of jeans, but a new pair of jeans. And they’re clean, and they start to have confidence among their peers and just be a kid,” he says, his voice low with emotion. “The stories I hear on a daily basis of what these kids are going through‰ÛÓsecond- and third-graders dealing with extremely adult situations and having to grow up too fast‰ÛÓthat part drives me.”

THE FAMILY MAN

Pitt’s fatherly pride in his college-age son, Landon, and teenage daughters, Sydney and Reagan, stems not from their accomplishments‰ÛÓindeed, he doesn’t mention any‰ÛÓbut from who they are turning out to be as people. “I’m pleased to say my kids have taken a role in a number of humanitarian projects,” he says. For example, his daughters spent part of this summer on a mission trip to Ethiopia. “They have a heart for it,” he says. “Like me, they want to try to make things better.

“One gets the feeling Pitt has heard similar sentiment from his own parents, Bill and Jane, about Brad, Doug and their younger sister, Julie. When asked about the siblings’ success, Pitt says, “You’ve got to give mom and dad the credit on that one, from the work ethic side to the philanthropic side. All three of us have Africa-related charities, but none of them are related. That wasn’t by design. Some things choose you, and when they do, you give it everything you’ve got.”

Pitt’s pride in his older brother’s movie stardom is tinged with a touch of moral indignation. “He works extremely hard, and I don’t think people realize what’s involved,” he says. Then his tone lightens to playfulness as he describes their brotherly banter and his vicarious enjoyment of the show-biz life. “I love being on set and at premieres, being a fly on the wall,” he says. “The fact that I get to experience the fun part of that and not have to deal with any of the drama is a pretty good deal.”

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Photo credit: Attilio D’Agostino

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