The Mark Schulein Passion Project Interview Series

At 53, I’ve realized that everyone has a story.  I didn’t know this during my middle and high school years when I was working hard to conceal the fact that my family called a motel room “home” or we were staying with friends because we’d been evicted from our house. Not knowing this caused me to feel different – like no one would understand.  I hate to admit it, but that feeling lasted well into my 40’s.  It was then that for the first time I shared my story about the financial struggles and homelessness that my family faced while I was growing up. What I didn’t expect was sharing my story created space for others to share their stories – so many hard and beautiful stories.  In this space of sharing and vulnerability, I realized how many of us have silently carried our stories and how alone and different we were feeling when we could have felt connected and seen. 


Over the past ten years as CEO of Project Hope Alliance, I’ve had many opportunities to share my story with others.  Each time I share my story, I learn more about myself in the process and continue to be humbled and encouraged by those who afford me the privilege of knowing theirs. One such opportunity (and likely my favorite interview yet) happened with Project Hope Alliance champion and friend, Mark Schulein. Mark is CEO of Crown Ace Hardware, a coastal Orange County based company that operates 22 Ace Hardware stores. I was so honored to be a guest on The Mark Schulein Passion Project Interview Series.


The energy and kindness that Mark brought to this interview unlocked parts of my story and heart that I hadn’t shared before. Sharing my story with Mark allowed me to feel more seen, connected, and a part of this beautiful community.  I am so grateful for this gift as it captures my heart as well as my hope for the futures of the children and youth served by Project Hope Alliance – what I know to be possible for them.


As you watch and listen to our conversation, I hope you see the beauty in my story because of the redemption of the difficulty.  It is because of friends like Mark, his wife Randi, his mother Linda, and the Crown Ace Hardware Family, that I and the kids we serve at Project Hope Alliance know that they are connected and seen;  part of a community where we all show up for each other in all the chapters of the stories of our lives.


Jennifer Friend, CEO 

Click here to watch The Mark Schulein Passion Project Interview Series with Jennifer Friend