When Denise Minter came to Felton three years ago, she desperately needed a job. Being in her 60s and overqualified for most positions, she didn’t have an easy task ahead of her. “I was applying for jobs like crazy for six months straight and wasn’t getting anywhere. It seemed that ageism was a big part of that because I have a rich and textured resume. Whatever I was selling, no one was buying.” 

Headshot of Denise Minter


While Denise’s story seems commonplace for many senior job hunters, this New Jersey native is an extraordinary example of someone passionate, creative, and eager to contribute to the world. After googling “jobs for seniors,” Denise finally found Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP)Funded and sponsored by the Department of Labor, SCSEP is a nationwide program overseen by the National Council on Aging and administered by Felton Institute in San Francisco. Denise met the financial qualifications, immediately enrolled, and was given a subsidized stipend for a 25 hour-a-week job.

A communicator and storyteller at heart, Denise believes in amplifying the message, adapting to change, and moving with the times. As the former VP/Head of Production at Dreamworks Animation, she worked in a fast-changing industry. And it’s that same hard work and resilience that earned her and her team an Oscar Award for Best Animated Film for the film “Shrek” in 2002. Before that, Denise dabbled in community radio, typesetting, 2D and 3D video graphics and was even a painter and working artist in New York City’s famed East Village. She brings a wealth of knowledge and talent to her current job.

After three years of working with SCSEP and helping Seniors find employment, Denise decided she wanted to learn how to write grants. Her mentor came in the form of Development Head Nita Kirby, who joined Felton in October 2020. A few months later, Denise became a Development Associate as a regular Felton hire.

“Everything Felton does is essential. And the work we do in the development group is to get more funding that allows us to do more meaningful things. In the Senior Division, it’s about working with older adults and helping them realize their dream. Everybody has needs at all stages in life. From our emphasis on social justice, we are helping people in the streets to helping people find homes. These are just some of the things Felton does. And I’m honored to be a part of it. Every day we make a difference.” 

Felton’s mission aligns with Denise’s passion for working in the community for social good using traditional skills and new technology. Denise explains her job, “I’m interviewing people, I’m making videos, I’m making infographics, I’m doing research. I’m continuously working on that communication piece. I want to connect with people and tell their stories.”

At the height of her entertainment industry career, Denise found out she had breast cancer. While others may see it as a setback, the diagnosis launched the course of her health journey and resilience. Going beyond the traditional route of Western medicine and cures, she discovered QiGong. Nowadays, she spreads the healing power of this ancient energy form by teaching virtual classes as a certified QiGong Teacher in Shining – Wisdom Healing QiGong.

“I think I just continuously come into wholeness. I think to borrow a little phrase that came from Shrek. We are like onions, and if you peel one layer, there’s another layer. And if you peel that layer, there’s yet another layer. I feel that I’m coming into wholeness in this lifetime using everything that comes before me. During one of my meditations, I had a visitation from the goddess Quan Yin who said, ‘Love is the highest state of being’. And now I hold that in my heart. I don’t know why I can’t prove it to you, but I know it’s true. Love is the highest state of being.” 

Denise lives in San Francisco with her husband of 33 years, son, and furry pets Cecil the Cat and Dean the Dog. She practices QiGong every day.

Written By: Auey Santos


About Felton Institute: Founded in 1889, Felton Institute responds to human needs by providing cutting edge, evidence-based mental health and social services that transform lives. Felton Institute is a tax-exempt organization registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit under EIN 94-1156530.

Offering more than 50 acclaimed and honored programs that address homelessness, mental health, prenatal, adolescent, adult, and senior needs, Felton Institute provides services in San Francisco, Alameda, San Mateo, Marin, and Monterey counties. Felton’s social services and programs utilize the latest scientific research, combining cultural sensitivity, deep respect for client and staff, and a commitment to social justice.

Felton is the oldest non-sectarian and nonprofit social services provider in the City and County of San Francisco. For over a century, Felton Institute has been at the forefront of social service innovation, pioneering new approaches to meet underserved populations’ emerging needs. At the heart of our work is the belief that individuals and families in crisis must have access to services and resources to help them build on their inherent strengths and develop self-sufficiency. www.felton.org