Decent Humans is what we call the incredible community we witness on CrowdRise each and every day doing amazing things for good. And each month, we’re going to highlight a Decent Human in the nonprofit world that’s devoting their time and passion to giving back and making a difference. We hope that by sharing their stories of aid, altruism, and passion, others will be inspired to make an even greater impact on the world we live in.
Check out this month’s interview with Nicholas Kristock, founder, CEO, and Executive Director of Michigan-based nonprofit, Fleece & Thank You. We’ll dig into his love of podcasts, what the words ‘30,000 kids’ means to him, and how he runs on chips and smoothies.
When a career in soccer brought Nicholas to Australia, he began volunteering his free time with children’s nonprofits. Specifically, nonprofits devoted to children fighting cancer in hospitals.
And it was shortly after, when he got back to the States, that Fleece & Thank You was born with the mission to provide comfort and hope to children in hospitals by means of a cozy fleece blanket and a personalized video message. The connections fostered by linking the blanket maker to the child in need, allows for the opportunity to cheer them on at the starting line of their journey.
On the day-to-day at Fleece & Thank You:
I’m the founder, CEO, executive director, floor sweeper, and everything in between. Whatever it takes to keep the machine running.
On the real need of blankets for children in hospitals:
In Michigan, there are about 30,000 pediatric in-patients a year. One out of every four kids will go into the hospital before they turn 18 and stay at least one night. And as a state, we're probably producing about four to five thousand fleece blankets a year for a state that needed 30,000. And mostly at Christmastime. It's scary enough and all they get is that dull, pasty white sheet on their bed. Our goal is to make 30,000 plus blankets a year and make sure that no matter where a kid gets sick in the state of Michigan, no matter what time of year they get sick, there will be a colorful fleece blanket waiting on the bed for them.
On the look and feel of their office space:
It’s 3,000 square feet in Novi, Michigan. It’s in an industrial complex and has 750 sq ft of office space and the rest is warehouse. We’ve got around three to four thousand blankets ready to go in the warehouse and massive roller machines that the fleece goes on. We’ve got thousands of yards of fleece all over the place.
The conference room has white shag, 70s carpet that was donated to us. We’ve got a wall of gratitude where we post letters from our blanket recipients, all taped up with Scotch tape. And, if you visit, you can sign the wall - so we’ve got marker signatures on the wall too.
On the best lunch he had this week:
Dude, I’m a big, Big Salad guy.
On why he gets up and goes to work every single day:
I need to be here because this is my fit. I’m wild and crazy about it. Selfishly, I found my fit and love to serve people… so this is the most selfish position I could be in because it’s where I need to be.
On what day-to-day tasks are his fave and which he could easily do without:
My favorite part of the job is being able to pivot at a moments notice because I’m the owner. When you run a business, if you’re doing something wrong, and someone brings it up, I can acknowledge it and change it to do it better.
And the hardest part, for me, that’s got to be bringing in people along for the ride and keeping them engaged enough for such an extended period of time at the level of commitment you need.
On the biggest challenge right now at Fleece & Thank You:
Our biggest challenge has got to be growing super fast and trying to keep up infrastructure-wise. Adding manpower to the staff that aligns with the vision is our biggest challenge right now.
On how they’re using CrowdRise for fundraising:
We chose CrowdRise at the beginning because of the event system. We do hundreds of events each year. The ability for us to make an event page and ship it to a group is how we operate. It goes ‘Cool, you want to do an event? Awesome, where’s it going to be? What time? Great. You’re on our calendar. We made a CrowdRise page, here’s a link, now just send it to your people.’ It’s all automated and it’s integral to our sales funnel.
On snacking throughout the day:
I’m a big chip guy. Love chips. Nacho Cheese Doritos. There’s no better chip. I mean, I’ll eat other chips, but Nacho Cheese Doritos are the best chips of all. We always have chips on hand at the warehouse.
On how he crushes podcasts:
I read a ton, for sure. Tools of Titans by Tim Farris is probably the best book I’ve recently read. But podcast-wise, I crush podcasts, dude. Probably to an obsessive level... I can tell you that. If I get in the car, it’s second nature to put a podcast on. The How I Built This podcast with Guy Raz and Entrepreneur on Fire by John Lee Dumas would be the ones I crush a lot.
On the reactions he gets when he says he works for a nonprofit:
The most candid reaction is usually, ‘Oh, that’s nice. How do you make money though?”
On something a Fleece & Thank You supporter might not know about their cause:
We employ a lot of adults with disabilities. All of our blanket kits that are made for events are actually put together here first at the warehouse. When the 2008 financial crisis hit and everyone cut their budgets, the first things to go were jobs like a greeter or bagger at a grocery store. We had a massive influx of adults with disabilities at that time with no employment and now they are an integral part of what we do. No matter what happens in life or how bad the economy gets, we will never let them go. They’re a catalyst to getting blankets into the hospitals.
On the two-words that come to mind when thinking about what Fleece to Thank You needs to accomplish in a year:
30,000 kids. Hoping hyphenating thirty-thousand doesn’t make this cheating. But, every meeting, every single thing we do...it all starts with 30,000 kids.
On his favorite smoothie:
I’m obsessed with smoothies. I actually don’t drink coffee or tea. Pretty much the only liquids I consume are water and smoothies. Obviously the more organic and raw the better. I throw as much fruit as I can pack into a blender, add a little bit of ice and blend it. Anything goes as long as it’s real fruit.
On the one thing he wants everyone to know about Fleece & Thank You:
That the solution we’re trying to offer is simple and it’s easy to support us. In Michigan, there’s almost a 100% chance that you’ll know a kid that goes to the hospital and stays at least one night and, therefore, will receive one of our blankets. So, if we can just find 30,000 people to make one blanket a year, there will be a blanket waiting for every child when they enter the hospital.
Thank you so much Nicholas. Awesome talking to you and thanks for being such a Decent Human. We’d love to snack on chips and take down a smoothie with you while listening to a podcast and making a blanket any day.
To learn more about Fleece & Thank You, click here.