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Why Did I Decide to Start The ELM Foundation?

by John Nolan, Founder

Why did I decide to start the ELM Foundation? I am often asked this question as people become familiar with what we are doing at the ELM Foundation. My answer is not often short because I try to answer that person’s question, based on what I know or perceive about them. Yet, in this message, the potential readership is so diverse that I cannot personalize the answer.

The simplest answer can be best described by lifting a few phrases out of one my very favorite hymns: “Because I have been given much, I too must give.” Indeed, I have been given much throughout my life, although in the early years, there was not very much that I had to give anyone else. In a day when being raised by a single mom usually meant that she was widowed and not abandoned, my six younger siblings and I fell in the latter category, with the unfortunate kind of ostracism that was society’s way of viewing us in those days. Curiously to some, that history provided an impetus toward generosity.

And now, back to the why. Frankly, there were individuals – and typically, they were the ones with the very least - who often reached out to us because they had the same view of their lives notwithstanding their humble circumstances; they viewed their “riches” in terms other than financial. The result was that each of us, over the course of our lives, have felt the imperative to “not see another’s lack and I not share.” Frankly, for many years, there was little in the way of financial resources to share, but there was always a blessing of time, effort, and energy to provide for someone’s needs. Yet, there was always in the back of my mind the possibility that perhaps someday I might be able to help provide more to many instead of just “the one.”

As the years went by and we became able to provide financial assistance as well, to more and more, I recognized that there had to be a more intentional way of fulfilling my responsibilities to others. While those blessings were increasingly poured out upon us, I had begun to translate blessings into “more resources” that enabled actions. Resources to be used on behalf of people we might not otherwise ever see, find, or help. Resources placed in our hands that we as a family could share. Not society’s current concept of “blessings” in the form of boats, or lake houses, or grand travel around the world. Instead, resources to help lift up those whom we could touch directly and significantly, irrespective of the size of their needs.

We had come to know of a certainty that everyone had the God-given right to Expect Little Miracles in their lives, exactly as those kinds of little miracles had happened in our lives. And, in order to ensure the very best stewardship of those resources, we came to further realize that we couldn’t do it by ourselves; or, in my typically irreverent way, we needed “adult supervision.”

Since that humble origin thirteen years ago, we’ve learned that people also come to us as Huge Miracles in their own right at exactly the right time that we need them the most: the ELM staff led by Missy Hanks – both present and past – now including Traci Harris and Cathy Larsen; board members with just the right mix of skills, judgment and wisdom; and those whose generosity and encouragement have helped broaden our service to our community.

So, at bottom, while it is clever to say that we are purpose driven or whatever buzz phrase might sound appropriate, we are really Miracle Driven! And, with the clearest, absolute recognition of the Source of All Miracles.


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