It’s that time of year again when we reflect on where we’ve been and what we hope to achieve. This month, of course, Americans celebrate Thanksgiving, sharing a meal with friends and family and giving thanks for all of our many blessings. Fortunately, even in these challenging times, we have much to be thankful for. I was especially aware of that a few weeks ago when EALgreen marked the occasion of our 15,000th scholarship with a celebration at Roosevelt University, Chicago, IL. It was a warm and wonderful ceremony that honored our donor partners, involved several of our college partners, revealed the human side of our organization’s history and allowed Abril, Josh, and Maite, three current EALgreen scholars, to share their own stories.
As many of you know, our organization was the brainchild of a unique man – Verlyn “Swede” Roskam. Swede felt very strongly that every student who wanted to go to college should have the chance to do so. The recipient of a financial gift that enabled him to complete his own education against considerable odds, Swede always felt a commitment to repay that debt by helping others. He and his wife Martha also believed in the power of thanksgiving. EALgreen was the result.
As the morning’s program unfolded, the story of Swede’s involvement with EALgreen was told by his partner and EAL co-founder, Dan Mickelson, Swede’s son, U.S. Representative Peter Roskam and EALgreen Board Chairman, Richard Pflederer. Each of them in turn told the audience about how Swede and Dan turned a highly innovative idea into an extraordinary reality. As Dan described the setbacks they encountered, I couldn’t help feeling a personal sense of gratitude that they didn’t give up. Peter told us about how Swede asked for and got the blessing of his boss at Oil-Dri Corporation to stay on at the company even though Swede was devoting much of his work time to building a non-profit organization that would become EALgreen. And it occurred to me, that without this concession, EALgreen might never happened. Finally, EALgreen got its first corporate contribution – the donation of two motors from W.W. Grainger. I must admit to getting a little teary-eyed at this part of our history. You see, it was that gift that enabled EALgreen to provide my tuition as the first EALgreen scholar. How could anyone not feel touched, humbled and blessed by this story?
Richard also reflected on EALgreen’s remarkably prescient business model that made us a pro-active participant in the sustainability movement decades ago. Now we continue to lead the way, not only helping college students and their schools, but ecology-minded corporations and the very earth itself.
At this point in the proceedings, Peter and Richard acknowledged and thanked representatives from each of our corporate donors and partners. . It was an honor to recognize each one in turn for their generosity.
Finally, came the moment that I think we all felt was the highlight of the morning, when three young EALgreen scholars told us just how EALgreen had profoundly changed their lives. Hearing their stories, knowing the part we were able to play in their education and future success, made me realize again that giving to others is always the best gift we can give ourselves.
I have many blessings in my life – my family, my friends, my health and energy. But I feel a special sense of gratitude to and for everyone who makes EALgreen possible – our scholars, our college partners, our staff and incredibly hard-working board members – and, of course, our generous donors. For me, being part of this remarkable organization that gives so much to individuals, institutions, corporations and the future well-being of our planet makes every day a time of thanks giving. For without EALgreen, who knows what my own life story would have been?
Wishing all of you the happiest of holidays –