Ahhhhh, summer! BBQs, reunions, get-togethers with family and friends . . . so many things to do; such little time to do them.
With a plethora of activities packed into a few short months, it can be difficult to clear the calendar for a day – or even a few hours – of "giving back." But what if the calendar didn't have to be cleared? What if generosity could be combined with a family get-together?
That aha moment inspired Thrivent members Donna Hein and her son, Nathan Mulder, to add a Thrivent Action Team project to the Hieronimczak family's annual summer gathering, aka "Stanley's clan," in remembrance of Donna's father, who died in 2002.
"It would be a way to help our kids – especially the grandchildren and great-grandchildren – understand that we're a family that gives." – Thrivent member Donna Hein
Donna, a Thrivent employee of 19 years, suggested to her siblings that they add a generosity piece to their family reunion. "It would be a way to help our kids – especially the grandchildren and great-grandchildren – understand that we're a family that gives."
It took little convincing to get everyone on board. Donna said the biggest challenge was narrowing down what organization they wanted to help. They decided to contact Assumption B.V.M. in Pulaski, Wisconsin, where the five Hieronimczak siblings had attended grade school.
The principal told them that four students were in need of school supplies for the upcoming year. It was the perfect project for Stanley's clan – and a Thrivent Action Team was formed.
Many hands make light work
To get the project started, Donna and Nathan created a spreadsheet with a list of supplies and shared it with family members. Because the Hieronimczak reunion was held in late summer, many of Stanley's clan were already shopping back-to-school sales, which made it easy for each family to pick up a backpack and a few extra supplies to share.
The $250 in seed money was used to purchase larger ticket items. New sneakers and socks were a welcome surprise for each of the students.
Within no time, the entire list of supplies was checked off. The family re-contacted the principal to see if a few other students might need help. In total, the Thrivent Action Team provided supplies for six students in elementary through high school.
"This was my first Thrivent Action Team, and my family members just took off with it," Nathan says. "It's great that we could find a local need and make a difference while we were together."
Generosity and fun, all in one
The day of the family reunion, members of Stanley's clan of 35, from ages 4 months to 86, gathered around picnic tables to fill backpacks for the students. It was an activity that blended family, fun and generosity – and passed on a legacy of giving to the next generation.
"To see my mom's face when she watched her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren giving back was really special," Donna says. "She was overwhelmed by it."
Donna adds, "Sometimes I think we believe that in order to help others we have to commit to something for the long haul. Those things are important – and we need people who are willing to commit to a cause for an extended period of time. But there are also people who can benefit from one-time projects that we all can do."
Scheumann family project
Mark Laurent, a Thrivent Financial representative in Ohio, and his wife, Holly, host the annual Scheumann family reunion.
Much like the Hieronimczaks, Mark and Holly were inspired to make giving back part of getting together. "We are fortunate to have a very loving family who really backed us on this idea," says Mark.
The Laurents and Scheumann extended family chose to help support kids undergoing treatment at Lutheran Children's Hospital of Fort Wayne. "The hospital allows the children to pick a prize each visit as well as get a special gift for a holiday, hard procedure days, end-of-chemo parties and birthdays."
The Laurents led a Thrivent Action Team during their reunion. Family members brought toys and games. The kids wrote notes for each gift bag. They combined monetary donations with the Thrivent Action Team seed money to purchase additional items for the gift bags.
In total, the 40 Scheumann relatives donated a couple hundred items valued between $700 and $800.
Mark and his family delivered the gifts in person. "It was truly a heartwarming moment for my kids, Holly and me," Mark says. "We hope this will spread joy to the children for a while to come."
Want to add a new twist to your summer get-together?
Thrivent members can easily apply to lead a Thrivent Action Team. Here are a couple of summery ideas:
Pay it forward: If you're having a graduation party, invite guests to bring school supplies to donate to the school the graduate attended.
Pick up at the picnic: Going to the beach or park? Why not lead a Thrivent Action Team in a pick-up/picnic project? Pick up litter then celebrate family, friends and generosity with a picnic. Seed money could be used to purchase trash bags and gloves – and food for the BBQ.