Season 5, Episode 12
December 14, 2020
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Season 5, Episode 12
December 14, 2020

These seven reflections on thankfulness from former guests and listeners, and the people they’ve helped, will remind you of the joy thanks brings.

These seven reflections on thankfulness from former guests and listeners, and the people they’ve helped, will remind you of the joy thanks brings.

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About Lighten Your Heart With Gratitude

During this season of giving, one gift that should not be overlooked is the offering of gratitude.

There are so many people in our everyday lives who do amazing acts of kindness, often unnoticed, and bring to life the notion that crazy good turns are all around us. From people running amazing programs, to running errands for neighbors during the pandemic, to those simply trying to brighten another person’s day – these are the men, women, and children who embody the spirit of kindness and helpfulness that this podcast is all about. They deserve our unending thanks for being a point of light in a world that too often seems dim.

Giving A Voice to Appreciation 

With thankfulness in mind, we put together this special episode. It features guests from prior programs and provides them an opportunity to say thank you, and a chance for the people they’ve helped to say thank you as well. We’ve also included messages of gratitude from a few of the hundreds of people who nominated others for our Crazy Good Thanks recognition program earlier this year. 

These guests explain some of the wonderful things they are grateful for, including:

  • Children who feed the hungry and leave surprise packages for neighbors
  • The gifts of interruptive laughter and reciprocal kindness 
  • Living a life of purpose and freedom after addiction
  • Kindness and support from strangers during difficult seasons

Lose the Weight of Thanks Unsaid

I hope listening to these expressions of appreciation prompt you to take a few minutes from your busy day to say a random, meaningful thank-you to someone. And I want to express my own gratitude to you for listening to this show. 

As 2020 draws to a close, I also realize that this is the time of year where we make New Year’s resolutions.

Here’s my New Year’s resolution: I want to lose some of the weight of unexpressed gratitude. I think unexpressed gratitude is a burdensome, troublesome thing, and I want to lighten up. So I want to surprise some people with gratitude, and I hope along the way I get to surprise you from time to time with what we feature on Crazy Good Turns.

Kids Boost Interview

FRANK BLAKE: Our first guests are from Kids Boost, an organization that helps children realize their fundraising dreams for organizations near and dear to their hearts. Kids Boost founder Kristen Witzel wanted to thank the people who make her organization possible, including participant Ansley King, who at just 9 years old — 9 years old — held a fundraiser that earned thousands of dollars to feed the hungry.

And by the way, Ansley is just one of the most seriously impressive young women I’ve ever met.      

Kristen, welcome. It’s great to see you again and have you on Crazy Good Turns. I know you’ve got a really special person to introduce as part of our thank you podcast. 

KRISTEN WITZEL: Yes. Thank you so much for having us. I have one of the most amazing kids that I had the privilege of working with with Kids Boost. Her name is Ansley. A little over a year ago, Ansley came to us and wanted to help people who were less fortunate get the food that they need. She realized that there were a lot of people in her community that were in need of food, so she wanted to do something. So Ansley decided to host Ansley’s Afternoon of Fun Fall Festival, where she raised money to do just that, to feed people in need.

At her event, she was so thoughtful about all the things that she wanted to have at her festival. She wanted all of her favorite things, but she also did something that was super sweet, that stuck in my head, in my heart. She decided that she wanted to make sure that kids of all abilities could enjoy her festival. So she had two bounce houses donated, not just one, so that kids who might need a little less stimulation could also enjoy her festival. She made signs and she got everything donated. She had slime booths. She had crafts. She had a raffle, she turned that hundred dollars that we gave her as seed money into thousands.

FRANK BLAKE: Wow. Very cool.

KRISTEN WITZEL: And the coolest thing too along the way I feel like, was Ansley worked so hard. She did the whole event planning. She was very thoughtful, as I said, but she also took extra steps and she became like this philanthropist leader. She ended up going and speaking at a board meeting even to solicit support. 

So nine years old, she walked into a board meeting, confident, and told her story, and her why, and who she wanted to help and why to get some support. So I would love to introduce you to Ansley. She has a wonderful heart, a wonderful spirit, and she just inspires me to be better.

ANSLEY KING: Thank you.

FRANK BLAKE: Ansley, so it’s, it’s quite a privilege to meet you. Is there a thank you or a set of thank yous you’d like to make?

ANSLEY KING: Yes. I would like to thank Kristen and Kids Boost for many reasons, for making it possible for me to make a difference in the world, and letting me feel a sense of accomplishment. Because I did this with the help of Kids Boost and I wouldn’t have been able to do it at all. I’m really grateful because Kids Boost chose me out of all of these people who went to see Kids Boost and she made my dream possible.

FRANK BLAKE: That’s awesome. That’s terrific. What got you thinking about Kids Boost? What prompted you to do this?

ANSLEY KING: Well, my grandma has this organization. At the time it was called Papa’s Pantry, but now it’s called Encompass Ministries. So she’s the one who helps people get back on their feet, helps them with food and classes. I realized I wanted to help them, and me and my mom came across Kids Boost which helped me make a difference. So that’s how we discovered Kids Boost.

FRANK BLAKE: Wow. Were you surprised at how difficult it was or was it easier than you thought? How much of your time did you have to put into this?

ANSLEY KING: Well, it was more difficult than I thought it would be because I had to get all of these people to help me, if they wanted to, obviously. We had to get the bounce houses. We actually had firetrucks and police.

FRANK BLAKE: Police, wow.

ANSLEY KING: Yes we did. And it took awhile. So it was definitely more difficult than I thought it would be. 

FRANK BLAKE: And through that was there one person that you’d say, “Boy, that person there’s just so much help through all of this?”

ANSLEY KING: Yes. It was actually my coach, Chelsea. She was the best coach ever. She agreed with my decisions, and she helped me along the way to make a difference.

FRANK BLAKE: That’s amazing. Well done. Does this make you think of Christmas in any different way or you are always thinking this way?

ANSLEY KING:  Well, it makes me think of it different because like I realized I’m really thankful for everything, and I’m really starting to notice that. Because that’s what Christmas is for, thanking people, being thankful.

FRANK BLAKE: That’s fantastic. Kristen, any thanks in your mind or any comments you want to make?

KRISTEN WITZEL: Gosh, I have so many thank you’s because as a small nonprofit that has kind of a different concept, it’s something that not a lot of people are doing, we rely on so many people to make this possible. So I would love to take a minute to first and foremost thank the kids. I would love to thank all of our past and present Kids Boosters because without these kids, we couldn’t do it. I mean, it wouldn’t be possible. So thank you to the kids and the parents for raising these wonderful kids who want to make a difference.

I would like to thank, I have two coaches, Kate and Chelsea, that also are Kids Boost coaches with me, who go the extra mile every day to make sure that they’re meeting the needs of our Kids boosters. Every kid is different. And Kate and Chelsea always come with enthusiasm and passion to help people like Ansley have their dreams come true.

And then finally our donors, we couldn’t do Kids Boost without the people that make this possible. So they’re the ones who donate the hundred dollars startup money. They’re the ones who help the kids raise the money and have the supplies that they need. They’re the ones who make all this possible, keep the lights on so that we can continue to empower kids.

FRANK BLAKE: You’re phenomenal, Ansley. Thank you very much. As are you Kristen.

KRISTEN WITZEL: Thank you.

ANSLEY KING: Thank you.

Curt’s Cafe Interview

FRANK BLAKE: Now we move from a child helping others to Travis. Travis is a young man working to turn his own life around through Curt’s Cafe, a Chicago-area nonprofit that keeps youths from reoffending. He also, by the way, brings laughter to the founder of Curt’s Cafe, Susan Trieschmann, who says she needs it.

We featured Susan and Curt’s Cafe again around the holiday time two years ago, and it’s an amazing organization, as is Susan. And now to Susan.    

SUSAN TRIESCHMANN: I would like to introduce a good friend of mine, Travis, who I work with at Curt’s Café here in Evanston. Travis and I have known each other for about three years, I think. Him and his brother had been a large part of our organization and they were a large part of my personal growth in our organization.

Travis and his brother came into the cafe to apply as students, and all they did was laugh the whole time. All they did was laugh and I spend more time, I was running the cafe at that time. I spent more time saying, “You guys stop it. I’ve got to do my work. You got to focus here.” And then I would turn around and they’d start laughing again and goofing again. And just, it was at a time when I needed to laugh a little bit more and I had forgotten that and they let me just find a really good space myself and I will forever be grateful.

FRANK BLAKE: Well, that’s about the best gift ever.

SUSAN TRIESCHMANN: Mm-mmh. Yeah.

TRAVIS: I just wanted to take the time out to thank Susan and Curt’s Café for helping me become better at working in the restaurant business and accomplishing different types of goals in life and being there for me as a family and not just a job and creating a platform for me so I can perform at the way life would expect me to.

FRANK BLAKE: Way to go Travis. That’s awesome. You started working there three years ago?

TRAVIS: Yes.

FRANK BLAKE: All right, fantastic. And what do you do at the cafe?

TRAVIS: I do pretty much everything all around in the cafe. I make drinks on the barista machine. I do cooking for line prep. Just pretty much everything. Bake.

SUSAN TRIESCHMANN: You know what he does most of the time, he makes us laugh.

FRANK BLAKE: Well, that’s the very best. So thank you, Travis. Thank you.

SUSAN TRIESCHMANN: I would throw the thank you back to Travis. I would say that Travis has allowed me and us into his life. You have allowed me and us into everything that goes on and you’ve embraced us. You’ve taught me so much Travis. And I’ll tell you what, in the last six months you’ve taught me about strength and hope and how to really believe. And I can’t thank you enough for that.

FRANK BLAKE: Well, thank you both very much and really appreciate you being part of this episode on Crazy Good Turns. And thank you Susan for everything you do with Curt’s Café. I know that you continue to do great work every single day. And Travis, thank you for appearing. Thank you for keeping things light for Susan.

TRAVIS: Thank you.

SUSAN TRIESCHMANN: Thank you so much.

No Longer Bound Interview

FRANK BLAKE: Now we hear from an adult who was successful at transforming his life thanks to help from an organization called No Longer Bound.  No Longer Bound is a residential program that has amazing success rehabilitating men who are struggling with substance abuse. Ed Scheu is a successful graduate of the program, and he and others like him are heroes to the organization’s executive director, Edward Bailey, who rose from being an addict himself to healing others struggling with addiction.

In the time since we featured No Longer Bound on Crazy Good Turns, I’ve gotten to know Edward a bit. It’s certainly enough to realize that he’s one of the most outstanding leaders I’ve ever met. And it’s a real privilege to have Edward here for his thank you, and to hear from Ed about No Longer Bound. Edward? 

EDWARD BAILEY: Thanks for having us, Frank. I tell you, I’ve got somebody really special with me today. His name is Ed and he is incredible. Our why that we exist at No Longer Bound is for guys like him. We exist to intersect hurting and broken people, and watch them transform right in front of our eyes. And I got to see that with Ed. He has a living, breathing miracle. He is the absolute essence of why the organization I get to lead exists. He is now a successful graduate, no longer bound, what we would call a regenerated man. He is living a life of freedom and purpose and fulfillment, things that he never thought would be possible. And so, he is an inspiration to us. He gives us a sense of purpose, for sure. So he’s now living down in Florida, crushing it in his career, pursuing dreams and his own personal vision that he never thought would be possible. And so super, super grateful and proud to introduce Ed.

ED SCHEU: Oh, man. Mr. Bailey and Mr. Blake, thank you. First of all, y’all for having me here today. And I want to start out and give my thanks to the vessel, which is No Longer Bound, that reintroduced me to a living and loving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, and without him these crazy good and great turns would not be possible. And in that, they’ve turned into crazy good times in my life. I want to give a special thanks to my mother, Linda Compton, who never gave up on me, in the worst of times, in the worst situations, always stood by my side, stood by me and never gave up.

I want to thank my, I always say ex-wife, it’s only because nobody else really knows her, but she is a dear friend of mine now. Her name is Heather. Also instrumental in staying by my side and not giving up on me, and re-introducing me to a relationship with my children, Andrew and Annalise. It’s given me the opportunity to be an active participant in my life, filled with purpose. I know we’ve spoken about it before, but my life is no longer thought in one dimensions. I have the ability to live free with dreams, visions, and goals. And there was a time in my life where that just would not have been possible, just living for the day.

I want to give God all the glory in being able to move to the great sunny state of Florida, fulfilling a goal, living in a dream and having visions in our business. Shout out to EFS Catering. Sorry, but it’s absolutely amazing. And man, thank you. Thank you so very much.

FRANK BLAKE: That’s amazing, Ed. That’s so terrific. That is fantastic. Hard to follow that.

EDWARD BAILEY: Yeah, tell you, man, I got to stand in front of our residents for Thanksgiving, our Thanksgiving meal that we just had with him, and we could kind of try to bring some thoughts and perspective what we were going through. And I found myself thanking them. I tell you, I went through so much in my own personal life and through a painful, traumatic journey of almost dying and finding freedom for myself. And so, as I was telling them, my pain really did create my purpose. My pain produced my purpose. And my purpose was I’ve been set free to set other people free. And so, what they give me is a purpose. Just by showing up, answering the bell and fighting for their own freedom, they give me a sense of purpose. And I find myself extremely grateful that I get to work at the intersection of a calling and a career, that I get a place, a battlefield to show up and go to war for these guys that are trying to fight for their own freedom. And so, I found myself really grateful for those men, for guys like Ed.

And the other thing is they get to be an inspiration. These are some of the bravest men on the planet. They’re facing things that statistically are so stacked against them, it’s overwhelming. And so, I’m super thankful that I had an inspiration in front of me, they get to be my heroes, that they are facing things that most people are too afraid to face or not brave enough to face. And so, they inspire me to continue pushing for people like them that they deserve a hand up instead of a handout in life. And so, I’m grateful for them.

During this time, especially through 2020, I find myself extremely grateful for the host of people that support the organization because they make that pursuit and journey to freedom an actual reality and a possibility. They show up, give them an opportunity. They foster an environment where freedom can be, that can be an actual option in these guys’ lives. And then the guys show up and do what they do. They make really brave and bold choices to face their pain, to stare it down and to win the day against it.

When you’re in a place like me and Ed were when we first got to No Longer Bound, we didn’t know how to use the dream muscle. Nothing had worked out in our life and anything good, we had squandered. And so, the idea that we were going to be bold enough to dream was just, it didn’t even enter into our sphere of reality.

So where I sit today, being married for 13 years, getting to lead the organization that I once went through from a position of empathy, and waking up every day to my wife and my two little girls that they are the living, breathing proof that dreams and miracles can still happen. So I’m super grateful for them.

I’m grateful for my parents. When I left the program in 2005, and I decided I wanted to go get high again. I was going to die within 30 days, and they were healthy enough to say, “absolutely not.” And so, they left me stranded on a curb at Forsyth County, sitting on the curb of a library as a homeless man. And I had to face my reality in that point. And I remembered that being my moment where I surrendered everything and said, “I’ll do whatever it takes.” They saved my life back in those days. And today I get to now give life back to others because of that, so a few people I’m grateful for.

FRANK BLAKE: Wow. I just wish everybody in the country and the world can hear those two things. That’s just, you guys are spectacular. Thank you. Thank you for doing this.

ED SCHEU: Thank you so much.

FRANK BLAKE: Are you kidding? What a privilege. You guys are awesome.

EDWARD BAILEY: Thankful to you, Frank Blake. Appreciate you, man.

Jennifer Pierce Interview

FRANK BLAKE: Our next guest, Jennifer Pierce, took advantage of our Crazy Good Turns recognition program to honor a woman whom she had never met but who was a beacon of graciousness during a friend’s illness. I was so thrilled that Jennifer nominated Crystal Hanlon, who happens to be an employee at The Home Depot and the president of Home Depot’s northern division. I was thrilled because I know Crystal and I know she embodies all of the spirit of helping others and doing crazy good turns that I hope this podcast is all about. 

She is a big hero of mine, and as you’ll hear, a hero of Jennifer’s too. 

JENNIFER PIERCE: I will tell you that I don’t know Crystal. 

My friend Suzanne, is one of those people that worked at the Home Depot and has to this day, such a tremendous loyalty to the company, such a tremendous pride in working there. Suzanne has always been to me that person who’s just a hundred percent, when you say, “Bleed orange”, she certainly does.

I wrote you that note because after 20-some years with the company, Suzanne, so ill and left. But what Crystal did, in terms of reaching out to this woman that never worked for her, was just the epitome to me of kindness and of leadership. And leadership to me can happen at any level, but it is especially important at the executive level and she nailed it. She and her team reached out to Suzanne. They have supported her so much.

I think even after I wrote you that note, they sent a bouquet of flowers just to check on Suzanne, just to say, “How are you doing?” And every single time, my friend just beams, she takes pictures, she puts on her Home Depot gear. She’s in dialysis with her Home Depot hat. Crystal Hanlon literally lifted my friend out of just the bleakest, most terrifying moments in her life. I can’t say enough about her.

FRANK BLAKE: You nailed it, Jennifer, that’s it exactly. I realize people often don’t take the time to just say, “Thank you” to folks. That was a way for you, on behalf of your friend, to say, “Thank you” to someone.

JENNIFER PIERCE: It had been on my mind and in my heart actually, to want to reach out to Crystal and to tell her what it meant to me.

I didn’t reach out to her because of Suzanne. I did this for myself because I wanted a way to say, “Hey, lady, I know you don’t know me, but I saw what you did for my friend and I want to thank you for that because I felt helpless.” I was watching my friend go through something and I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what to say. I felt incompetent. I couldn’t figure out a way to make her feel better. Having Crystal do that meant the world to me. It isn’t even about my friend, really. That’s why I saw Crazy Good Turns and I thought, “Oh my gosh, that’s such a great idea. I can use this. I can nominate this woman and say, ‘This woman did this wonderful thing’ and it should be acknowledged and I want her to feel special and I can do that.” And so I did.

FRANK BLAKE: Jennifer, I thank you so much for that. That is the most articulate, heartfelt… No, that is honestly exactly what I was hoping people would do. It’s exactly that, “I don’t know Crystal, I don’t know who this person is, but wow, she was an angel to my friend and I want to say, ‘Thank you’.” I’m thrilled. Really want to thank you.

JENNIFER PIERCE: Thank you.

Interview with Dawn Walpol and Josie Parker

FRANK BLAKE: There were so many people who nominated others for the Crazy Good Turns thanks recognition program and so many people whose stories touched our hearts and I love sharing them. We received nominations from all over the country recognizing people for running amazing programs, or running errands for neighbors, or just working to brighten another person’s day. 

One of those people is 10-year-old Josie Parker from Cohoes, New York, who was nominated by Dawn Walpol. Here, Dawn tells Josie how much she appreciated her kindness to others during the spring quarantine. 

DAWN WALPOL: Her mom had posted a couple of stories of Josie leaving care packages on the doorsteps of schoolmates and other neighbors once we all kind of started the quarantine. And they were just little packages of joy, like games and candy and notes. And she kind of doorbell ditched. She would take and leave it on the doorstep and then ring the doorbell and then run to Erin’s car and run off. And I had seen it, I knew that they were doing it and I thought, Oh, that’s really cute. That’s awesome. And then I saw it on the local news and I was like, Oh my goodness. That’s awesome. And they called her the quarantine fairy.

So, I guess a couple of weeks prior, I’d seen on Twitter that the podcast was looking for nominating people. And I was like, Oh my goodness, I have to send Josie’s name in it because that’s just really cool. And I didn’t tell Erin that I’d done it. We know each other through work. But it was a no brainer to send it in. I was like, this is like what the Crazy Good Turns is.

I’m a big fan of making people smile each day. I mean, it takes as much energy to have a bad day as it does to have a good day. So I’m just always trying to make somebody smile. Even if it’s a random stranger, if it’s with a smile or grabbing their cart in a parking lot, or holding the door open, or grabbing something off the grocery shelf they can’t grab, just anything like that. I just think kindness just goes a long way and this epitomized that. And just making other people smile and there’s nothing wrong with that.

JOSIE PARKER: I got that idea from just noticing about COVID and noticing that it’s really hard for like a ton of people to be happy during COVID because they could either like not see family members or whatnot so then I thought it would just be a good thing to just give people things. So then they can just get that very happy moment that somebody thought of them and that somebody just gave them something.

I could like overhear and I could hear people like really happy, like, “Yay! I got something from someone.” And just like the utter enjoyment. Like enjoyment of the people.

That’s important to me because I would like to have everybody happy because if everybody’s happy that just makes the world a better place.

DAWN WALPOL: Absolutely, Josie, and thank you for being kind and just wanting people to smile. You do it in so many ways besides this. Your dancing and I know your mom is just so proud of you and just don’t ever stop.

JOSIE PARKER: I feel very happy that people are grateful for me and people are grateful for everything that I’m doing. That just makes me happy. I just want to say, thank you, Dawn, for nominating me and thank you.

Dawn Walpol: You are very welcome.

Interview with Nancy Bussan and Erin Robinson

FRANK BLAKE: Erin Robinson is also on a mission to bring a smile to those in her community. Her organization, Made by Mary, delivers sweet treats and personalized notes to people in Mount Prospect, Illinois. Nancy Bussan, who found herself blessed to receive one of those kind packages, wanted to tell Erin thanks. 

NANCY BUSSAN: Well, the main thing that I would always notice was the Made By Mary thing, that they have going on in their house, where they, she and the kids, the girls, I guess, bake goodies, homemade goodies and make homemade inspirational, little cards and pictures and stuff. And surprise people with them to cheer them up or just to give them a little, just to cheer them up a little bit, give him a little hope and stuff or congratulations or whatever the case may be.

And I was the recipient of one of those too and so are several of my neighbors. So that’s always a good way to start the day when you get that.

It was awesome. Because I had always seen that happen all the time, but I didn’t realize that somebody was going to call in my name or give her my name or whatever. So it totally caught me off guard. Usually I’m the one doing stuff for everybody else. So when somebody does something for me, it just really warmed my heart for sure.

ERIN ROBINSON: My middle child is a baker and she loves to bake, but of course, nobody needs a dozen cookies around their house every day.

So I thought perhaps we could encourage them to use their baking powers for good. And I kind of just started searching social media for opportunities or people who are going through a hard time and we would, Mary would bake something and then Kelly and I would find an appropriate message and make a card and we deliver the two together.

And then we started to think a little bit more out of the box and were hoping that, we could find other people in the community. Other people’s eyes would help us to identify people we didn’t know who could benefit from our deliveries as well.

So we created a Facebook page and then just kind of put the word out. It said, “if anybody knows anybody going through a hard time, let us know, we’d be happy to deliver.”

We try and stick around as much as we can. I mean, obviously I think the most emotionally impactful thing for the person who receives it and from us is just a quick message that somebody was thinking about you and that, we just wanted to personally deliver this to you in your difficult time.

Of course now because of COVID, we’ve had to do a little bit more social distancing, but prior to that, there was a lot of hugs exchanged at the front door and certainly some great stories.

I remember one time I walked into the door and somebody’s mom had just been moved into hospice, and I said, “we’re sorry about what you’re going through.”

And then without even prompting her, she started to tell me all about her mom. I think people are just desperate to connect in that time. It’s really hard for her. So, of course, it gets emotional. I can get emotional even now thinking about it, but these are the hardest possible days for some people.

Sometimes it’s a really nice surprise and sometimes you deliver right at the right time. Somebody just got back from funeral planning or, they’re just sad about a loved one. So there’s lots of opportunities where you always pray that you just show up at the right time.

I try and always share some of those moments that really kind of resonate with me and us as we’re making those deliveries on our social media page as a way for other people to connect to it as well.

I think it’s a reminder to my kids and to others that you never know what’s going on behind your neighbor’s door, so never take anything for granted. And at the same time, you never know what somebody else’s struggles are.

NANCY BUSSAN: Oh gosh! Yes. When I got something out of the blue that I didn’t expect, that just caught me totally off guard and it made me so happy.

And nice to know Erin, I got to know her a lot better since then too. Of course.

ERIN ROBINSON: What Nancy did in contacting Crazy Good Turns is, really hits home for me because my love language, if you will, is words of affirmation. So people giving you positive feedback or saying nice things or telling you, they appreciate what you did.

So for me, the thing that fuels me is exactly what Nancy did. It motivates me and my kids to keep going that people see what you’re doing and they appreciate it. I mean, unfortunately, well, not unfortunately it’s completely okay because we do it without expectation.

But I would say actually most often we don’t get feedback or thank you’s or things like that. So when people do take the time, it’s even more important.

NANCY BUSSAN: Obviously thank you so much. Not just for me or my husband, but for several people on my block that you’ve brightened their day and people in the community. I know just so many people have been cheered up just because of the simple things you guys do at home.

And I love the fact that your kids are involved in it. And of course, Erin does all kinds of things like blood run, spearheads blood drives and runs 5K for good causes and donates to good causes. And she organizes or helps with numerous food drives for homeless and food pantries and less fortunate and stuff.

I mean, the list goes on and on and on. And she just inspires her family and her friends and the community people to want to be kind and caring and generous and come up with their own little things to do for other people.

And she does all this with the full family and a job and all that stuff, the energy is endless, apparently, so I’m envious. Of course I’m a lot older than she is too, but still I’m still envious of the energy she’s got because she never stopped giving and thinking and giving and thinking. So thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Erin.

ERIN ROBINSON: Thank you, Nancy.

Interview with Kevin Chamberland and Lori Corelli

FRANK BLAKE: I couldn’t resist this last thank-you. Our final guest is Kevin Chamberland. Kevin is a Home Depot district manager in Boston who wanted to recognize his coworker Lori Corelli, another district manager in Massachusetts, for her incredible leadership and the way she treats her associates like family. 

I know both Kevin and Lori. These are two just exceptional people in the way they handle others every single day. And it was wonderful that Kevin reached out to recognize Lori because these are people who, in my mind, deserve our thanks and special recognition every single day. Their story illustrates how important it is that we take care of each other and how that creates a ripple of kindness with no end.  

KEVIN CHAMBERLAND: When I first met Lori, she was a regional operations manager and I was a store manager. And then we both had the ability to take on district manager roles. And so we’ve worked with each other, probably, the last 15 to 20 years. Over that time, I’ve been able to learn a lot from her and how she handles business, but also how she takes care of our people.

Well, there’s several things about Lori in her leadership that I’ve looked up to for a long time. Just her passion for business, but her passion for her people is what makes her a tremendous leader.

She’s got a deep knowledge of the business, but she makes sure that everyone’s comfortable coming to her and talking to her and really understanding and listening to her team to really make sure she’s being the best leader for them.

And she inspires me to be better, and for me, it’s really just an unbelievable characteristic that she has, is just being able to really connect with her team and understand their needs and then being able to make them better not only as business people, but as people in general. And so I’ve looked up to her for a long time.

LORI CORELLI: There’s two families that influence that over the past 27 odd years. And one is my personal family, just growing up a single mom, some struggles. It was always around advocating and doing the right thing and making sure that everyone around you is in a place where they can all rise.

And then, coming to the Home Depot back in 1994, I was so taken by the culture of the company and the parts around servitude and how you really advocate and take care of one another for everyone to win.

And I would say honestly, over the past 26 years with the company, how this company, that I’m so blessed to be a part of, practices that every single day, gives back every single day, finds new and innovative ways to do more every single day. And I feel like the culture helped me, as a person, be a better person.

It helps my daughter be a better person. It’s just such an influence that goes beyond our jobs and how it impacts our lives. And really that’s the foundation for what makes me tick, if you will, and taking care of those people. Especially the ones I work alongside, including Kevin and the other district managers.

I do have a couple of folks that I can think of, whether it’s an associate who has family members who are suffering through addictions, and taking a small moment when I’m in a store to check in on them.

And what was interesting, especially during COVID, hadn’t been in the stores and I went into this one associate to check in on her. And she was talking to me about her daughter and how, her daughter’s somewhat missing if you will, with some outside influences. And she stopped me and she said, but I know you always are worried about me, but how are you doing? And it’s weird that this whole reciprocation around care is shared now because when you take the time and show people that you are genuine about their wellbeing, it makes them reflect and go, you know what? I need to take the time too.

And so I find often when I’m checking in on, Kevin and I probably have between 1800 and 2000 people that we work alongside in our districts, but I noticed when you slow down and take the time that they want to make sure that you’re okay too. And that, to me, is very humbling, because they genuinely care about me as well.

As part of our company’s cause around the veterans, we had a veteran who a couple of years ago, his house was deemed uninhabitable. And we took the opportunity as a group to just go in there, new roof, you name it, so he could live. And I made sure that I took him to a little hotel for two days, so that while we were doing this, he had a place to sleep and we went shopping.

And he sent me Christmas cards. He wrote me letters after that, thanking me and what the company, but also the team, has had done to change his life. And it’s times like that, that you feel so honored to be part of something bigger than yourself. 

KEVIN CHAMBERLAND: Of the leaders that I work with day in and day out, I think Lori is the one that pays it forward the most. And we all have great peers, but when you look at what Lori has done for her people and what she has done for the rest of us, I just thought for her to be nominated for something, just a little way of saying thank you to her, would just be a nice recognition for her.

Frank used to say, burn your free fuel first, so that was just my way of saying thank you to Lori.

She’s taught me so much throughout the years and has been a great business partner. Has been a great year to be able to just talk through different situations that we’ve come across. Things that I can pull from her experience and then just to see how she operates with her people, has been just a pleasure for me as a leader.

I definitely want to just say thank you to Lori for all she’s done for me throughout my career. And for all the associates she’s helped develop and really give opportunity to when it comes to their promotions or just even in their personal life. She’s had a huge influence on all those around her, so she should be commended for it.

LORI CORELLI: I was very surprised, advocating and caring is just what everybody should do a little more of in the world. And the fact that Kevin took that opportunity was super sweet, humbling, obviously. And he’s shortchanging himself a little bit too, because he is just as amazing. Just as caring. People love spending time with him and it’s just such a great feeling all around. And I think that’s what this podcast is about. And so it was great to feel that way. And I appreciated him sharing that with me and recognizing me, but he deserves a little kudos as well.

Kevin, you’re very kind to say so many sweet things. Thank you for taking the time, Kevin. I know there’s a lot of folks that you could mention in all of those accolades that would apply, and the fact that you took the time to single me out, particularly, and appreciate me, is really great. Thank you so much.

I would just like to thank Frank, honestly. Through the years with Home Depot and how he has created a culture on top of an already amazing culture around appreciation and thank you, and now he’s even continuing those works outside of the company. He should be appreciated today and thanked as well for his inspiration, his leadership, and just being an amazing person of character that we all admire and aspire to be.

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