At Christmas time, it’s not unusual to hear stories of people spreading holiday cheer by giving to those less fortunate and hiding behind a Secret Santa identity to do so. But one group of individuals from the Kansas City metro area business community is using the anonymous giving model all year long.
The nonprofit group known as the AbNormAl Society is on a mission to help those people who find themselves in a temporary tough spot and to do it anonymously. Members come from six cities on the Kansas side of the area and six cities on the Missouri side.
The group was honored recently at a Blue Valley School District board of education meeting with the district’s prestigious Friends of Education award. One individual from the AbNormAl Society accepted the award in person. But the group so fiercely maintains its anonymity, that its leaders asked that The Kansas City Star not use any individual names for this story.
The AbNormAl Society was formed 18 years ago by a Leawood man who then recruited two other individuals. The founder said their goal was straightforward: to help those people who get stuck in the crack of life and to give them a little boost. The group’s unusual name also follows its philosophy.
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“The reason for the name is simple,” said the group’s founder. “Those things that we have viewed as being normal are now viewed as abnormal in society: kindness, generosity and doing things without recognition.”
The founder of the group said he was determined to start a group where 100 percent of every dollar that is raised could be given back to those in need and not be used on unnecessary administrative costs. And the AbNormAl Society does just that.
A separate group of three men covers all of the administrative costs on their own. That leaves the rest of the money raised by the AbNormAl Society to be used to help more than 50 families a year throughout the Kansas City metro area. In 2013, AbNormAl Society gave out $45,000 in assistance to 66 recipients.
Roughly 40 percent of the money is distributed on the Missouri side of the area.
The AbNormAl Society raises money through membership dues, a golf tournament and an annual black tie parody event where attendees wear jeans. An annual poker tourney takes place in Missouri
Requests for one-time assistance on behalf of others are funneled to the group through what the group calls community pillars such as teachers, principals, business people and church leaders. When one of these pillars sees a need, a request is sent via a private fax line to the AbNormAl Society founder.
Mark Schmidt is the executive director of student services for the Blue Valley School District and has seen firsthand how a one-time gift of financial assistance can make a difference in the lives of families who have suddenly experienced a financial hardship through no fault of their own.
“If utilities get cut off, that would prevent them from getting ready in the morning to go to work, or maybe it’s a car repair that needs to happen to get them to work,” said Schmidt. “It’s just about giving that hand up in those unusual situations where the thing standing between success is just a small financial contribution.”
The AbNormAl Society never gives out cash but instead pays bills directly.
The group that once started with three people now has 140 active members. The AbNormAl Society meets once a month and even sends out a regular newsletter to members. All members are reminded of the need to keep each member’s identity secret.
There’s no formal way to become a member.
“No one actually joins,” the founder said. “You sorta just become involved.”
One man interviewed for this article joined the group 10 years ago after attending one of the AbNormAl Society’s golf tournaments.
“I got a description of the organization and some of the assistance that had been doled out just really grabbed me and I thought I need to be part of that,” said the AbNormAl Society member. “It’s simplicity at its purest, giving anonymously.”
Giving to others because it’s the right thing to do and not for recognition is the ultimate goal for the AbNormAl Society’s founder.
“I can quietly make a difference and without fanfare, so that is what I am pursuing.”