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Thrivent client spotlight Gwendolyn Steele: Giving a piece of herself

Gwendolyn Steele donated part of her liver.

Gwendolyn Steele had always thought about being an organ donor, and about a year ago that desire became reality. It began in earnest when she met someone who donated a kidney. She started researching both kidney and liver donation options to see if either would be a fit for her.

And even though she learned that a liver donation is a harder surgery, and the recovery is longer because the organ regrows, Steele, a marketing consultant/website designer from Culpeper, Virginia, decided she would do it if given the chance.

While researching on a Living Donation Facebook page, she met a woman that needed a liver. She flew to Chicago to undergo the tests to determine if she was physically able and if they were a match. While she got a clean bill of health, they weren’t a match. Weeks later, however, Steele received the chance to help a person in dire need.

“This person had two months to live,” she says. “We were an anatomical match, but her insurance wasn’t as great. That made me want to give it even more.”

The transplant—60% of Steele’s liver—happened in late July of 2021. Steele was in the intensive care unit for two days and the hospital for a week. And because she lived in Virginia, she needed to stay in Chicago for four weeks. She couldn’t be alone, so family and friends rallied to help, creating a schedule and even driving her back home.

“My friends are the loves of my life,” says Steele. “I could do this because I had all of them to take care of me. They stepped up, and it was amazing.”

Steele, who is fully recovered, met the recipient of her liver donation, a mom of two young children. “She couldn’t thank me enough,” she says. “I now have a new family of friends in Chicago.”

What did you learn from your donation?

I’ve learned to be more patient with myself and to ask for help more. We’re all connected when we take care of each other. I felt like I could do this because I have a support system. If you have these things, you could do it, too. Anyone can do this. (

How do you demonstrate gratitude?

In basic terms, I make sure I say thank you, mean it and make eye contact. I also show gratitude with acts of service or kindness to others. The more thankful I am, the more I want to give. I will stop in on friends with a coffee or flowers or fruit. I'll send a card and ask if they need any errands run. Or I’ll just leave a silly voice message to make them smile.

How did you first learn about Thrivent?

I was 8 years old when I got my first life insurance contract. I still have that contract and have since added other products, including securities investments and an annuity.

What’s your first memory of money?

Both of my parents lost their jobs when I was in fifth grade. We went on welfare, lost our house and had to rebuild. I remember being without, but I still had a fun childhood. My parents split up eventually, and mom got us off all the programs. That experience is my driver today, which is why I have more money for later than for now.

What are your guiding principles around money decisions?

I’m always saving for later. Do I really need something now? I talk myself out of a lot of things.

What’s the best piece of financial advice you’ve ever received?

Always take the match from your corporate 401(k). It’s free money. Plan for the long-term and don’t worry about the dips in the middle.

What’s your favorite volunteer activity?

I love to volunteer with a group called Culpeper Renaissance Inc. It’s big in the community and helping Culpeper grow. I have donated marketing hours to packages for people to win, and also will donate half off the rate when designing a website.

What does it mean to you to thrive with purpose?

Any person can be successful in terms of money or status or followers or material things, but to be successful or thrive with purpose means you are giving back to the world around you: community, friends, family, charities, volunteering, consulting, passing on a compliment. Success with purpose means you have added to the human collective, which means you have added to yourself as well. I consider my level of success as a human by how many lives I have touched and helped and served.

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Author Donna Hein is editor of Thrivent Magazine.


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The clients’ experiences may not be the same as other clients and do not indicate future performance or success.