This week I celebrate my 5th year as Executive Director of Spare Key. I do so in a year in which Spare Key celebrates its 20th Anniversary of providing housing grants to families with critically ill and seriously injured children in the hospital.
It has been a tremendous honor to lead this organization. It has been a privilege to be a part of a team of dedicated staff, remarkable board members, generous donors and sponsors and thousands of volunteers who have come together to help serve others.
I never cease to be amazed at the willingness of people to give money to Spare Key to serve others they will never know and who will never know who has given them such kindness.
In five years, I have had my shares of ups and downs. Highs and lows.
My first six months at Spare Key may have been the worst of my life. But, I decided to give it six months more and now, five years later, I have found a new lease on my passion for this organization.
The bulk of my adult life has been in public service. Spare Key is a continuation of that life.
I’ve taken the phone calls of joy from those families we’ve been honored to be able to tell that we have their mortgage payment covered so they can focus on their child’s care and recovery.
I’ve also taken the phone calls of anger, sadness, disappointment and fear from those families who we have had to tell that we weren’t able to help them because we receive far more applications that month than funds we had available.
The former are the calls that validate for me the mission of Spare Key.
The latter are the calls that motivate me to work harder to serve every single family that needs Spare Key’s help.
A year ago, I felt my enthusiasm and passion for Spare Key were waning. The daily grind of raising money, standing in front of groups of people pleading for funds and the non-stop competition for resources has a way of exhausting the spirit.
Yet, over the past year I have found, increasingly, that my enthusiasm and passion – my drive – to continue to strengthen Spare Key’s purpose of helping families “Bounce and not Break” has increased.
There is no denying my staff and board have played a significant role in that renewal of spirit. Their level of dedication, professionalism, selflessness and purpose inspires.
Each day I walk into the office there is somebody doing something to help someone.
It’s not a big staff. Besides me there are three full-time and one part-time employees of Spare Key serving families in four states.
I often laugh at the absurdity of the amount of work 4 ½ of us do.
It’s not supposed to be possible.
But, somehow, it is.
My board is big, diverse and engaged.
Every non-profit believes it has the best Board of Directors in the world.
I know I do.
Nearly every single member of the Board of Directors brings something to the table to move Spare Key forward.
Spare Key relies on all of them to be involved to achieve our goals, mission and objective.
Five years is a long time in a short life even if one intends to live to be 100.
It’s 1/20th of the total of that life.
For Spare Key, my 5 years represents 1/4th of its life.
I can see Spare Key’s future.
One that expands its capacity to serve more people. One whose mission will remain purposeful and intact but will meet the needs of a new generation of families needing our help.
A “one-stop” shop for families seeking light in the darkness. A place where social workers will be given many of the tools they need to assist families with one phone call, email or fax.
I see Spare Key engaging in new ways create sustainability so that fewer resources have to be expended to raise more resources to help families with sick and injured children in the hospital.
Raising money is hard work. How we raise money must change and evolve. And, it will.
In our 20th year we have adopted a modified version of our motto, “Spare Key helps families Bounce and not Break.”
That motto is “No matter the illness. No matter the injury. No matter the income. Spare Key helps families Bounce and not Break.”
It’s not elegant but it is powerful.
What has made me do the work I have done for five years, and what inspires me to continue this work with a new zest for what we can do, is that motto.
But, it’s something else, too.
It is the number Zero.
That’s the number of calls I want to someday receive from a family we have not been able to serve.
Because there won’t be a family we won’t be able to serve.
If I have anything to do about it.
I intend to.