Gifts of Hope History
Written by Sue Clark, founder of Gifts of Hope
In 1991, my brother-in-law, Dick Clark, told me of an exciting program that he led at his church in suburban Chicago. It was an amazing effort: volunteers sold individual Christmas cards to benefit different social service organizations. Each card came with an insert describing a specific item, e.g., backpacks for foster children. The card became the gift. That was my introduction to alternative giving, a way to give a special present in the true spirit of Christmas. Dick admonished me to begin a similar program in my congregation. Soon afterward I learned that he had cancer, and he died the following year.
Inspired by Dick’s alternative giving concept, a group from the Metro Washington DC Synod got together to brainstorm how we could adapt the program to our area. The idea of using a catalog and basing the gifts on proposals from organizations already affiliated with the Metropolitan Washington DC Synod emerged. The Synod Council endorsed the plan for the program. Gifts of Hope began during Advent, 1992.
The first year garnered $42,711. We were thrilled, but felt there was room for growth. With the help of many volunteers, support from the synod and from local Thrivent Financial predecessors, participation and enthusiasm for Gifts of Hope increased.
Twenty-five years later $3.37 million dollars have been raised and distributed to social ministry organizations, church camps, student ministries, and our companion synods in Namibia, Slovakia and El Salvador.