After more than 30 years of a career deeply rooted in government and politics I made the decision to enter public service in a new and different way.
I became the Executive Director of a small non-profit: Spare Key.
In a nutshell Spare Key is all about helping sick and injured kids in the hospital. We do so by providing housing grants on behalf of their parents so they can focus on their child’s care and recovery and avoid having their already tenuous financial situation become more dire.
It was a mission born out of the tragedy of the loss of a child by Robb and Patsy Keech who felt compelled to pay it forward after having had the support of their family and community network. Their son, Derian, had been born with a congenital heart disease that ultimately claimed his life.
During the ensuing two and half years of his life he and his parents were in and out of the hospital. The hospital stretches became longer and the expenses became bigger. There came a time when the young parents had to make a choice between being at the hospital or at work. If at the hospital there would be no income, no money and no way to pay the mortgage to keep their home.
It was at this time that others came forward and made sure that the Keech Family never missed a housing payment.
Not long after Derian earned his Angel Wings Robb and Patsy founded Spare Key.
Eighteen years later the organization has served nearly 3,000 children and their families with almost $3 million in housing grants.
Its mission has remained the same although its ability to serve more families than ever has grown beyond the single state it began with in 1997.
My career in government and politics was fulfilling and I had the opportunity to work for and with many outstanding men and women. From small issues to big ones it was and remains my great privilege and honor to have had a life in public service.
Today, my life in public service is different but no less fulfilling. It is also devoid of the partisan and bitter rancor that has so polluted our national discourse and diverted our attention from focusing on the needs and wants of our fellow citizens.
It is also a window into the true heart of my fellow citizens.
It never ceases to amaze me the generosity of men and women who have never met any of the children or families we serve but unhesitatingly donate their hard earned money to help them.
Nor does it fail to impress me the number of organizations that stand ready to support the mission of organizations like Spare Key to better and improve the lives of our communities. From community and private foundations to family foundations – large, medium and small – they are a collection of commitments through the years dedicated to lives of those who are in need of comfort and compassion.
Whether it is the Richard M. Schulze Family Foundation – the Otto Bremer Family Foundation – or private companies like Wells Fargo, Bell State Bank & Trust or the Corval Group — each has made a determined decision to give back to organizations like Spare Key.
The result is a stronger, more vibrant and better life for all of us – those who are in need of their generosity and those that support it through our own donations in both time and resources.
Today, more than three years after accepting the role of Spare Key’s Executive Director I can personally attest to the impact of their generosity and that of thousands of individual men and women.
We have been able to say “Yes” to more children and their families today because of that generosity.
It is my everyday focus and effort to find ways to say “No” less often to those in need of our mission support.
I am encouraged by the progress we’ve made and optimistic about the opportunities ahead of us. Our new partnership with our National Founding Partner, Lenders One and its parent company, Altisource, offers a promise to thousands of families throughout America that Spare Key can soon help them “Bounce and not Break.”
This promise won’t happen overnight, nor will it take a direct line to the lives of those families, but it offers an open door of opportunity to expand the mission that began 18 years ago in the home of Robb and Patsy Keech.
Spare Key and the hundreds of small non-profits like it throughout Minnesota and America are an important part of our lives.
At the heart of each of these organizations are the donors that provide the lifeblood that enables them to carry out their mission of mercy and compassion to the hundreds of thousands of families that are, at the same time, both hopeless and hopeful.
Because of their generosity there remains, always, more hope rather than less.