Convincing Gerald L. Middel, CLU, ChFC, to visit a sprawling ranch with horseback riding, skeet shooting and a bevvy of other activities wasn’t a tough sell.
The purpose of the retreat, however, was anything but self-serving.
As an influential part of the community, the 51-year MDRT member from Denver, Colorado, USA, was invited to learn about a new organization called Providence Network, which sought to mobilize support and housing for those who were battling drug and alcohol addiction. More than 25 years after his visit, Providence Network has received the MDRT Foundation’s top Quality of Life grant of $50,000 in recognition of Middel’s volunteerism and support for the organization.
“I was just overwhelmed,” Middel says of learning the news. “There are so many wonderful stories about people who have been able to conquer their addictions by spending years going through this intense program, plus the live-in staff just showing them complete love and care.”
Middel did not become involved with the organization immediately after his mid-’90s retreat there. During the event, he became friendly with pastor and Providence Network co-founder Andy Cannon, who followed up with retreat attendees to schedule coffee meetings, send books and otherwise connect. (When Middel now works with nonprofit organizations, he uses this as an example of how to effectively recruit supporters.)
Middel eventually decided to make a small annual contribution, driven by his connection with the organization’s mission. Though he doesn’t personally battle with addiction, he did recognize how many of the people involved with Providence Network had minimal parental influence, an experience that reflected the absence in his own childhood when his father died.
Middel was asked to become a member of the board only a few years after he began donating to Providence Network, and he’s remained on the board for more than two decades, including a period as board president. He’s been there as the organization, which now houses more than 160 people across six homes on any given day, expanded after purchasing a three-story mansion that can house 20, along with the creation of Joy House, an additional apartment building to house victims of domestic violence, along with four subsequent acquisitions.
Joy House can accommodate 11 moms and 17 children at one time and as many as 20 moms and 30 children each year. The $50,000 MDRT Foundation grant will go toward hiring a part-time vocational specialist to identify and develop skills for the women in Joy House and help direct them toward employment opportunities.
“This grant is allowing us to move forward on this initiative much quicker than imagined, which we’re really excited about,” Middel said.
Though Middel’s involvement with the organization has been vast — he’s served on the finance committee, worked closely with the development committee and held every post possible — he also points to others’ important work with Providence Network. He recalls how his wife, Joyce, spent more than 10 years finding people to help furnish, paint, clean and sponsor rooms at Joy House. And he thinks of how he has shared Providence Network’s story with clients — including one who not only started giving a significant amount annually but wound up adding another very large donation to help generate enough funding to support a matching grant from another foundation.
That donation led to the client’s name being added to what is now called Clausen House, one of Providence Network’s second-step homes where residents live in individual apartments after graduating from the initial two-year program. As with lodging at Providence House, Clausen House also has counselors living on
the premises to help with any relapse issues.
Middel says powerful examples of how Providence Network has changed people’s lives are told at every board meeting. He shares the story of a young man who dealt with alcohol abuse in college, finally deciding to face his problem after waking up in a hotel room surrounded by vodka bottles and unaware of how he had broken his ankle. Someone told the young man about Providence Network, where he went on to not only thrive but receive support to pursue a career in nursing. Years later, he showed his gratitude for the experience by filming a promotional video for the organization and spending an entire summer riding his bicycle from San Francisco to Philadelphia, raising more than $30,000 for Providence Network.
“Those stories continue to get me excited about how people’s lives can change,” Middel said. “Providence Network has given me the opportunity to have real empathy for people who are homeless and struggling, many of whom are stuck in a place that was influenced by their background and not driven by their own doing.
“Rather than saying, ‘Hey, get rid of these people,’ I think we’ve gotta figure out ways to help them.”