I heard about Michelle Blackman, Founder of Giving is Good, Inc., (givingisgood.today) when talking to a friend about a need at St. John's Homeless Shelter in downtown Green Bay. The selection of shoes for guests was slim, and the friend suggested the charity.
The contact was made and the need made known. Although Blackman wasn't able to immediately help, it wasn't more than a week before she got back in touch. "It has been working like that," Blackman said. "I get something in and someone needs it. We give this over to God and say, 'What should we do?' We trust in that, and things seem to happen. After your request, 11 pairs of nice shoes came in the next week."
She has seen this happen time and again since becoming a nonprofit organization last May. She receives huge quantities of gauze and discovers that a local charity is thrilled to take it with on a missionary trip to Haiti. There was a family of four who had just gotten a newborn foster child and needed toys, clothes, everything.
"I had just gotten in all of these baby items the day before. I was able to say that I had everything she needed and gave three boxes full," Blackman said.
The ability to provide what is needed is not new. Although the charity is in its initial stages, she has spent most of her life giving of her time and talents. In 2011, she was named Everyday Hero for her work with Operation Christmas Child, work that the De Pere resident continues to do.
"I didn't just pack shoe boxes, I packed a lot of shoe boxes," she said. "Last year, I packed 1,619, and because my family, friends, and community know that I do this and donate for the boxes, my home was like a mini thrift store."
That has changed with her move to the StartUp Hub on the campus of Northeast Wisconsin Technical College in Green Bay. She now stores donations in a large room she rents, and has found the space ideal.
"The StartUp Hub had everything we needed ? a receptionist, utilities, office machines and internet," she said. "They were wonderful to deal with and we've already outgrown the original space."
She credits her husband, Jeff, with helping start the charity. He was instrumental in getting approval as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and did it in record time. He helped find the space, does the bookwork, and most importantly, encourages her work as she tries to transition from volunteer to entrepreneur.
"I think of entrepreneurs as trail blazers. They are people who have new ideas and press forward in the face of adversity," she said. "It is about finding something you love to do and making it a business. If you want to be an entrepreneur, take what you love and what drives you and provide an answer for someone's need."
Providing for needs and serving others, she says, is in her DNA, and she has embraced that part of her personality. Her work with Operation Christmas Child, and putting together the shoe boxes that are distributed throughout the world, grew to where she was a year-round volunteer and coordinator for 14 counties.
Since starting that work about 15 years ago, she has packed about 7,000 boxes. She will continue to work with Operation Christmas Child, but also will expand to other areas. That will include collecting donations of goods and matching them to the group or people who need them, and doing acts of kindness that bring joy.
The goal of the charity is, "To cheerfully give and abound in good work by improving the lives of others. We get good things into the hands of those who need them."
Blackman's enthusiasm for the mission is evident as she speaks. She asks everyone to check out current events on the Giving is Good, Inc. Facebook page to stay up to date and participate in providing help and comfort to those in need, along with a spark of joy. Donations of items and financial gifts are welcome.
As the current crisis has people sheltering at home and many senior citizens in isolation, she is encouraging people to send cards and coloring sheets for distribution to nursing homes. Other activities will be added in the coming weeks with information available on the Facebook page.
When we have emerged on the other side of the current crisis, she looks forward to speaking to groups and spreading the word about charity. In the interim, she hopes others will connect on social media and do what they can to support their neighbors.
Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.