For as long as she can remember, Terry Franzén has always been committed to lending a helping hand. “I have been involved in various nonprofit organizations probably my whole life,” Franzén said. “I am a strong believer in giving back to others.” It was not until she was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time, however, that she really became motivated to start taking action and getting more involved in philanthropy. “I was in for a routine check-up at the doctor when they found cancer in my other breast,” Franzén said. “After my diagnosis, I decided that if I was going to do something, I better get going and do it. You never know what can happen with cancer.”
Once she was again in remission in 2002, Franzén, who always had an interest for mission work overseas, joined with her husband in going on organized trips to Juarez, Mexico, to build houses with an organization called Casas por Cristo. When that part of Mexico became too dangerous in 2007, she and her husband were given the opportunity to begin traveling to the Diocese of Haiti by partnering with an Episcopal church in that country. Now, Franzén carves out time in her busy schedule twice a year to travel back to the island nation on missions. “It has changed my whole perception of life in the U.S. and what is really important,” she said. “You hear people complain about the small things, but when you go to a place where people don’t even have clean water and their biggest concern is how they are going to feed their children, it makes you have a different attitude about things.”
Franzén takes pride in the fact that the missions are making a difference by providing health care and education to people who would otherwise not have it. She believes that educating them is beneficial because it teaches the people how to get themselves out of poverty. “In regard to the medical and dental clinics, there are no other services where we are, so we have made tangible and impactful results within the community,” she said. “The first time we went, it seemed like almost everyone had sexually transmitted diseases, but now it is rare to see any. It’s just the little bit that you do that can change people’s lives.”
Like everything else in her life, Franzén has never let a challenge stop her from doing something she believes in. When the Atlanta mortgage and finance company where she worked as general counsel shut down 17 years ago, she turned a wall into a window and teamed up with a friend to start their own law firm, Franzén and Salzano, P.C. She currently manages the firm’s consumer financial services litigation and regulatory enforcement practice.
“Of the things I have done, opening my own firm has been the best professionally,” Franzén said. “It has given me so many opportunities and more control over my own destiny.” Franzén believes it is important for other attorneys to challenge themselves and take more risks when it comes to their careers. “I would really encourage lawyers to think about the business of law and to consider starting their own firm because it has been very rewarding,” she added. “I think a lot of lawyers are scared and not risk takers, but they need to step outside of themselves and really explore their options.”
As she works toward retirement, Franzén knows that no matter what is in store for her next, she wants to continue to dedicate her time to helping others. “I am thinking about how I can take the skills I have developed over the years and use them in a different way,” she said. “I’m not exactly sure what that will look like, but I want to use that expertise to help people rather than help financial institutions.”