About 40 customers at Gary’s Piggly Wiggly and the Waupaca Mobil Travel Center were pleasantly surprised when strangers came up and gave them $25 gift certificates.
Members of Thrivent Financial for Lutherans South Waupaca County Chapter 30077 distributed the certificates Saturday, Dec. 21, as random acts of kindness.
In 2012, the local Thrivent chapter gave approximately $26,000 in supplemental funding to local civic groups, charities and individuals in need, according to Sandy Collar, chapter president.
Among the organizations to receive supplemental funding from Thrivent are Lights of Love, Boy Scouts, FFA and the area food pantries. Chapter members reach out to groups in Waupaca, Weyauwega, Fremont, Iola, Scandinavia and New London.
“We provide supplemental funding to help other groups raise funds,” Collar said. “If they have a goal of $1,000, we can help them reach it.”
In addition to helping local groups, Thrivent also provides funding for individuals.
“We can help families pay for wheelchairs or cancer treatments,” Collar said. “We say, ‘just give us the bill and we’ll take care of it.'”
Frequently, when families hold fundraisers to help cover medical expenses, Thrivent provides supplemental funding for the event.
“We don’t get paid for it; we do it because we love to do it,” Collar said.
Collar said members of Thrivent are invited to participate in the local chapter, which meets annually to elect a board of directors.
The five-member board meets monthly and votes on projects to help fund.
Collar said a friend, Jan Hanke, encouraged her to become involved in the local Thrivent chapter. That was 20 years ago, and she has been an active member ever since.
“I like the fact that we’re giving back to the community,” said Don Andersen, who has been involved with Thrivent for about 15 years.
He said Thrivent’s supplemental funds range from $500 to $2,000.
As they were handing out the gift certificates Saturday, some of the Thrivent members encountered suspicious looks as people asked, “What’s the catch?”
The members explained that the gift was freely given, and there were no strings attached.
However, at least one person called the travel center and spoke with Collar to express her gratitude.
“She was so thankful. She said she had just gone onto Medical Assistance and that times were tough,” Collar said.
Although the members of Thrivent’s South Waupaca County chapter are all volunteers, they work with Thrivent’s local representatives, Jim Stoltenberg, of Waupaca, and Kay Anderson, of Iola.
“We sometimes suggest ideas to give back to the community,” Stoltenberg said. “At the end of the year, we usually have dollars left in our fraternal budget, and we try to find ways to use that money.”
Funds left over from the chapter’s operating budget made it possible for members to spend a day performing random acts of kindness at two Waupaca stores.
“I know that God loves us all,” Collar said. “By going out and helping others, I am sharing that love.”