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A force for good

Here's how Thrivent clients made an impact using their time, talents and treasures in 2023.

Ken and Gay McCray helped organize a community planting and mulching event in Old Town Silverdale, Washington.
Jeffrey Ritter

2023 at a glance

Thrivent Action Teams held1
dollars distributed through Thrivent Choice1
donations made through Thrivent's online giving platforms1
Thrivent Action Teams held1
dollars distributed through Thrivent Choice1
donations made through Thrivent's online giving platforms1

Sometimes it just takes one person to create an avalanche of good in a neighborhood.

When Ken and Gay McCray moved to Silverdale, Washington, in 2022, their new neighborhood, Old Town Silverdale, was being renovated with a new sewer system, sidewalks, streetlights and landscaping. But an atmospheric King Tide in December of that year decimated the new landscaping that stretched along the waterfront area, and weeds sprung up in their place the following spring.

“I walked that route every day, and when no one came to fix it, I started picking weeds,” Gay says. Soon, another person stopped to help. When Gay asked, the county provided trash bags and a trailer for cleanup, and nine volunteers filled nearly 40 bags of debris.

“It’s one thing to clean up,” she says. “But we also knew we needed to put something down.”

Gay organized a Thrivent Action Team and bought the first 500 daffodil bulbs. Then three more Thrivent Action Teams helped acquire another 1,500. She canvassed businesses, city planners and individuals to support the project with more bulbs. She also rallied volunteers for a community planting and mulching event. 

On Oct. 21, 2023, more than 90 volunteers from toddlers to people in their 70s showed up to plant 4,400 daffodil bulbs along a mile-plus-long stretch. Businesses, families, community service groups and individuals adopted light poles to plant around. They’re looking forward to seeing the fruits of their labor this spring.

“Only God could do this,” Gay says. “And when people serve together, it builds bonds. It only takes one person to start it. There are always people willing to help.”

Uniquely inspired to give

Volunteering, being generous, giving back, serving—or whatever you choose to call it—can look different for everyone. Hands-on service, monetary support, hospitality, gifts and relational support are all ways that people show generosity. Sometimes different generations express their generosity in different ways. According to Nonprofit Tech for Good (Aug. 4, 2023), generally members in the older generations donate more money, while younger generations are more likely to give their time.

The inspiration or motivation for generosity also differs for each of us. In a recent survey* conducted for Thrivent Magazine, nearly nine in 10 Thrivent clients say their personal faith influences their generosity. Just over half of clients say their parents strongly influenced their giving back, and 43% include friends as an influencer of generosity.

Austin Keller, a lead minister for Ubly Christian Church in Ubly, Michigan, cites Acts 20:35 when asked in the survey about his motivation for being generous. In this passage, Paul quotes Jesus as saying, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” Keller adds, “I just feel like if I want to live my life fully, I need to be generous with my time, my talents and my treasures.”

Kathi Hawn, from Houston, Texas, says her inspiration to be generous comes from the uncertainty of life—something she reflected on heavily as she prepared for a medical procedure. “I can’t predict how much time I have left, and that uncertainty drives me to make a meaningful impact in the world before I’m gone. I believe it’s essential to leave a positive mark so I won’t be forgotten, and I’ll have made a difference.”

While his faith plays a role in his commitment to community service, Mike VanQuickenborne, from Anacortes, Washington, says it’s not about feeling compelled from a divine mandate. “Instead, I believe all humans are inherently designed for community, and being part of a community means helping others when they’re in need, if one has the capacity to do so,” he says. “Having positive role models and examples of people making a difference inspired me to want to be part of that positive change.”

Every day, Thrivent clients of all ages make an impact in their communities through their generosity. Read on for more inspirational stories of how clients just like you lived generously in 2023.

I believe all humans are inherently designed for community, and being part of a community means helping others when they’re in need, if one has the capacity to do so.
Mike VanQuickenborne, Thrivent client

Wooden toys for children

Doug and Louise Brown sent 4,000 small hand-crafted wooden toys to children in the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota. The founders of the nonprofit Wood-to-Wonderful, based in Reading, Pennsylvania, also sent unfinished wooden toy kits to the Bear Project on the reservation, a nonprofit that sponsors community events for the youth where kids and parents can build the toys together.

The total to Pine Ridge was about 6,000 toys. This is in addition to toys distributed locally, nationally and even internationally. “We believe that if children can have a toy, it can make such a difference for them,” says Doug.

The Browns work with a team of friends with disabilities and others to make and package thousands of toys each year. Donors, including Thrivent clients leading Thrivent Action Teams and directing Thrivent Choice Dollars®, help make the work possible.

In 2022, following the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, they worked with the local parent-teacher organization to send 3,000 wooden toys— one for each child in preschool through sixth grade in the school district.

“We wanted to show them that others in the country were thinking of them, that they weren’t alone,” says Doug.

Helping those experiencing homelessness

About once a month since 2016, Jeff Schmidt and others from Hutchinson, Minnesota, drive about 60 miles to provide supplies to people experiencing homelessness in the Minneapolis area. They take two trucks containing totes filled with clothing, shoes and socks, food, Bibles and devotionals, flashlights, empty garbage bags, winter gear, blankets and sleeping bags, tarps and more.

“There are so many ways to serve, and this is what feels right to me,” Jeff says. “I felt God calling me to do this. It’s so challenging, yet it feels so right and so rewarding.”

Over the years, Jeff says, about 60 different volunteers have gone with him to serve, including his wife Teresa. They share items with about 35-40 people each trip. Some they’ve come to know, and they also meet new people each month.

“There are so many trips where we go and meet one person and have a real meaningful conversation,” he says. “We feel if we’ve driven this far for even just one person, it was a good day.”

Family, church and so many others, through donations and organizing Thrivent Action Teams, have kept Jeff and Teresa’s basement filled with supplies. “It’s been amazing how God provides.”

Teens take over food distribution

More than 50 teens in the San Fernando Valley, California, turned out for a day of service and learning about college opportunities in a partnership between the nonprofit Zawadi Cultural Collective and Thrivent last October.

The nonprofit does food distribution at Christ Community Church in Winnetka, California, every Saturday. However, once or twice a year the plan is for a teen takeover, where the teens unload the trucks, sort food, man the stations and serve the community, all on their own.

“When the families started coming for the food, the teens lit up,” says Marc Henderson, Thrivent market director in the region. “They saw what a blessing it was to support their community.”

Afterward, Henderson shared college planning resources with the students and their parents.

“It was an amazing day,” says Shania Accius, executive director of Zawadi Cultural Collective. “The students felt connected, and it gave them a sense of pride to give back to the community they live in. They yearn for that sense of community.”

Serving a multitude of needs

“Sometimes if you can change one person’s circumstances for one day, it makes all the difference,” says Kelly Anlas, from Elkins Park, Pennsylvania. For Kelly, it’s about making a positive impact in people’s lives. She’s led about a dozen Thrivent Action Teams over the years to help multiply her efforts.

One of Kelly’s favorite activities is making bags to distribute to people experiencing homelessness. She collects toiletries, socks, gloves, small blankets, nutritious snacks and other items, then packs them in bags to be distributed. Giving them out may happen in a group, but Kelly often keeps a few in her car to pull out when she comes across a need.

With her church family at Jarrettown United Methodist Church, Kelly also has helped make no-sew blankets and hand-sewn pillowcases in a variety of patterns. They give these to One House at a Time, which delivers beds to children in the Philadelphia area.

“Each child can pick out their own pillowcase,” Kelly says. “It makes them feel special and that it was made just for them. It just feels good to make people happier.”

Snack packs for kids

In the spring of 2020, Joan and Devan Voeller learned about a new program at the Open Door Pantry, a large food pantry serving Dakota County in Minnesota. The plan was to distribute snack packs to children who face food insecurities through the organization’s mobile pantries.

“We meticulously followed the instructions and put together 25 bags to drop off,” says Joan, of Eagan, Minnesota. “A few days later I felt God telling me I could do more. I didn’t know what that meant.”

But it led Joan to post a note on her neighborhood Facebook page, asking for snack donations. Joan’s phone started to blow up with questions—and offers of help.
With the help of a neighbor and her two children, Joan and her family put together snack packs every two weeks from May through August. And many neighbors contributed items regularly, dropping off items or ordering through Amazon. Joan also organized Thrivent Action Teams to collect items.

It’s been four summers, and Joan’s neighbors have helped donate more than 3,500 snack packs over that time.

“Every single time it’s a ‘loaves and fishes’ story,” Joan says. “I was raised by parents who lived by ‘to whom much is given, much is expected.’ Time, talents and treasures—if you’ve been given a gift, you share it.”

gold line

Membership programs can help you be generous

Thrivent offers a variety of ways to help you be generous. Consider one of these membership programs in 2024.
Simply gather a team of friends, family or neighbors and put on a fundraiser, educational event or service activity. Thrivent provides you the resources to get started.
Eligible clients can direct Choice Dollars® to organizations and causes, and influence how Thrivent distributes some of the program’s funding.
Make a personal donation to one of the more than 45,000 organizations enrolled in Thrivent Choice. Thrivent pays the processing fees.
Help ensure everyone has access to safe and affordable housing in the U.S.—and around the world.

1As of December 31, 2023.

*Survey conducted by Thrivent’s Research, Insights and Consulting Team with the Thriving Together online community in November 2023.

Member benefits, programs and activities are not guaranteed contractual benefits. You should never purchase or retain any insurance or annuity products simply to be able to participate. Participation is subject to applicable Terms and Conditions.

Membership benefits are reviewed and evaluated regularly. Thrivent reserves the right to change, modify, discontinue, or refuse to provide any of the membership benefits or any part of them, at any time.