arked behind his desk at an insurance agency, former Army National Guard member Daniel Arkins found himself in a self-described “midlife crisis.” After leading a life of purpose and action for over 30 years serving his country, Arkins was suddenly without a goal or a clear path forward. Though he said he enjoyed his time in the insurance business, he knew something was missing.
A call from Brigadier General Jack Hammond, whom Arkins, BC ’81, had served with in Afghanistan from 2011 to 2012, was just what the doctor prescribed. Hammond is the executive director of the Massachusetts General Hospital’s Home Base program, which provides medical services to veterans, and he and Arkins came to an agreement. Soon after, Arkins began his new role as the director of development at Home Base.
Such a drastic career change—from insurance to philanthropy—isn’t entirely new for Arkins. For much of his career, Arkins has found his purpose moving from place to place, often in unexpected ways. When he first joined the army, for example, he had the “somewhat selfish” intention of simply repaying his student loans. But that plan launched a 33-year service career.
ust a few months after he joined the Home Base staff, Arkins had yet another shift in career. When the coronavirus became more prevalent in Boston, the governor called on Hammond to be the incident commander for the Boston Hope COVID-19 field hospital. Hammond took with him 30 of his staff members at Home Base—Arkins included—and began a new initiative to help the city of Boston.
“The vast majority of us are veterans, so we operate in these austere environments pretty easily,” Arkins said about his new line of work at the field hospital.
Patients could go to the Boston Hope field hospital—formerly set up inside the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center before releasing its final patients in early June—for coronavirus care and treatment. It served both patients who did not need hospitalization and homeless patients. The center was run through Mass General Brigham, formerly known as Partners HealthCare, and it was run largely by volunteers.
“We call it Boston Hope, and there really is a lot of hope coming out of here in terms of how we can come together in a time of incredible need and make sure everybody’s taken care of,” Arkins said.
Arkins and his coworkers provide services in areas including clinical support, leadership, outreach, food and laundry, mental health services, and any others where they might have expertise. For Arkins, his development experience from working in insurance and with Home Base took on a new form: managing charitable donations to hospitals all over Boston.
“We’ve spent a lot of time working with the business community in Greater Boston to make sure that folks have warm clothes, shoes, personal care items, access to cell phones so that they can call their families,” Arkins said. “We’ve got about $700,000 worth of in-kind donations that have been made to Boston Hope.”
hough the coronavirus pandemic has threatened many aspects of daily life, Arkins said he has found himself more encouraged by the community support than discouraged by the bleak forecasts on the news. Most specifically, Arkins sees hope in the Boston College community.
First, Arkins began working with Olivia Palmer, an AmeriCorps volunteer with the Boston Hope field hospital. After a brief introductory conversation, he and Palmer, BC ’19, found that they share an alma mater.
“When I look back on the Jesuit motto of ‘men and women for others,’ I’ve seen that in spades,” Arkins said. “My respect for both the broader community about how much generosity there is … and how reflective BC grads are about serving other people has grown.”
Arkins has also seen immense generosity from Patrick Downes, BC ’05, and his wife Jessica Kensky who have been connecting with Arkins to provide “Get Well” cards and other patient care supplies. Downes and Kensky, both survivors of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing, each have jobs in the medical field already, but Arkins said they’ve chosen to be generous even when they didn’t have to be.
With each passing day, and each new volunteer or donation, Arkins sees his purpose grow.
“If you just watch cable news all day, you’d think the world was collapsing around us—which in many ways it is,” Arkins said. “But when you start going down to the more granular level, there are so many people that put their own personal concerns aside just to make sure that these folks are taken care of.”