February 19, 2016 | By Jake Weber
It was December 2015, her first college winter break, and Morgan Garmo, '19, was looking for something to do. Then her aunt invited her to help make blankets for a brand-new nonprofit. Two months later, Garmo has signed on as Fleece & Thank You (F&TY) chief financial officer, with the support of many of her fellow students at Albion.
"There are so many nonprofits that do amazing work, but there is nothing like Fleece & Thank You," says Garmo of the nonprofit organization started in 2015 by Nicholas Kristock, whom she met through her aunt.
F&TY provides its donors with the unique experience to shoot a video message of hope that travels with the blanket they make. As the blankets are distributed to children in hospitals, the kids can watch the video and are encouraged to make a video in return.
"The kids love it," Garmo says. "Sometimes the little ones will say 'That blanket looks just like mine,' and when we tell them it is their blanket, they get very excited."
This past Christmas Eve, Garmo first saw this connection in action, as she helped F&TY deliver blankets to a children’s hospital.
"It is magical, seeing the power of connection F&TY has built," Garmo says. "There was one little boy who was worried about being in the hospital over Christmas. As soon as we came into his room he wanted to take a picture with his new blanket and us. At that moment I realized we were providing hope, comfort and connection to children who need to heal through these blankets. That was the moment Fleece & Thank You stole a piece of my heart."
As F&TY's CFO, Garmo works closely with Kristock as they plan out the financial direction of the company. "People say 'Apply for this grant' and 'Reach out to these people,' but it is not that simple. There are a lot of applications, deadlines and marketing that go into all of that. Obtaining funding for a new nonprofit takes a lot of time, dedication, networking and patience,” she says.
Garmo has also brought a lot of Albion's campus into F&TY with her. She and Kristock were contacted by one of their hospital partners and told about a young patient who had run out of treatment options. Would F&TY deliver a blanket?
"I asked several groups on campus to make a video for Dane, and when word got out a lot of people asked if they could make a video, too," says Garmo. "Fleece & Thank You’s mission is built around the importance of connection. This opportunity allowed different groups around Albion to connect and come together for a cause that is much greater than themselves.”
Beyond this informal effort, the Ford Institute and Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity have signed on to host F&TY events during the spring 2016 semester. Garmo is thrilled—but not surprised.
"Everyone is so busy here, but it says something about our community that everyone wants to help with this. I have such an exceptional support system," she says.
"Even my professors ask how things are going. That’s one of the reasons I came to Albion," she says. "It’s one thing that the professors know your name; it's another thing when they know your name and care to ask how things went over the weekend."
Despite being a young organization, Fleece & Thank You distributes blankets through 17 Ohio and Michigan hospitals and completed a Christmas drive of more than1,000 blankets. Garmo looks forward to increased growth, for the organization and for herself.
"The people who are part of Fleece & Thank You have the biggest hearts and work tirelessly every day to see this nonprofit succeed. I am blessed to be part of such a high-level team. The critical thinking and communication skills required for success line up with the liberal arts," she says.
"I’m studying geology and environmental science right now, but I’m a finance and journalism double major. I’m being exposed to new and different perspectives that help me grow and appreciate the perspectives of others. Being part of Fleece & Thank You and Albion is magical. They are two things I did not see myself being a part of a year ago, but I could not imagine my life without them now."
Learn more about Fleece & Thank You at fleeceandthankyou.org