January 02, 2020

Stay-At-Home-Mom Supports Friends of the Children Through Innovative Fundraising Strategy

The Life of Ellie, written by Jan Block.

Jan Block, author of the children’s storybook The Life of Ellie, has chosen Friends of the Children as the beneficiary of the book’s sales. Jan, a stay-at-home-mom and former Director of Events for the Portland Business Journal, initially intended to donate $1 per book sold, however, through matching donations, she was able to grow that fund to $10,000!

After moving to Minnesota in October 2017 and leaving the business world behind, Jan found a creative outlet in writing. She originally envisioned The Life of Ellie as a family relic: a story based on her son’s meaningful relationship with his stuffed elephant, Ellie. As she began to write this story and work with an editor, it occurred to her that every home in the world could relate. At times, special stuffed animals can do more for a child than a parent can.

Using crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, Jan pre-sold books to raise funds for self-publishing, with an eye toward donating a portion of the funds to Friends of the Children, an organization she admired after working closely with the organization’s Chief Executive Officer, Terri Sorensen. She met her self-publishing goal in just one week.

The founder of Friends of the Children, Duncan Campbell, is someone Jan has always admired. She met Duncan when he spoke at an event she hosted while at the Portland Business Journal. He left an impression during his remarks that lasted with Jan. He’s self-made and had an unstable home life – both similar to Jan.

Jan Block Quote ca9fb07a2a0f4c120ae2c14e6eef3aba

Prior to the Kickstarter launch, Jan reached out to Terri and proposed that through book sales, she’d be able to make a small donation of $700 to Friends of the Children as the book’s beneficiary. Jan intended to have one, or maybe two, philanthropists match her donation. Terri responded to Jan immediately and eagerly partnered up while cheering her on. It was just the motivation Jan needed to latch on to the challenge. Jan told Terri, “I won’t let you down!” A few months later, the fund not only doubled but tripled. The caring community that supports Jan and her passions stepped up and helped to raise $10,000!

Duncan Campbell First Republic Bank Check Presentation ca9fb07a2a0f4c120ae2c14e6eef3aba

In October 2019, before the book was set to launch, Jan invited Duncan Campbell to the check presentation for the funds she raised to be hosted at First Republic Bank of Portland. In preparation for the event, Jan had an oversized check printed for $6,750. To her surprise, First Republic Bank employees Jillette Nguyen and Natasha Strength contacted Jan to let her know that Barbara Palmer, Regional Managing Director, and two of her top execs decided to donate to the cause and bring the total raised to $10,000. There was no time to remake the check, so they got creative and did an “unveiling” – a very unexpected surprise for Duncan and Sarah Beiderman, director of innovation at Friends of the Children.

Sarah Beiderman Duncan Campbell Check Presentation ca9fb07a2a0f4c120ae2c14e6eef3aba

A local philanthropist, businessman and personal mentor to Jan, Ryan Hoppes, attended the check presentation on October 9 along with several community members and friends of Jan: Refinement Wagner of Wagner Dental, local printer owner, Janey Greenless of AnchorePointe Graphics (who gifted the giant check), and Jillette Nguyen of First Republic Bank represented Jan!

The Life of Ellie Check Presentation ca9fb07a2a0f4c120ae2c14e6eef3aba

Special thanks to the following philanthropists and companies that contributed: First Republic Bank, Picture This PDX, Logical Position, Revant Optics, Transitional Youth, Securus Contract Systems, Johnson RV, Future State Consulting, Jill Nelson, Barbara Palmer, Brian Rice, Karin Barber and Evelyn Rosling.

You can purchase a copy of The Life of Ellie on Amazon or Jan Block's website.

About Jan Block

Born in Ohio and raised in Florida, Jan moved to Oregon in 2013, where she married her husband, Joel, and found a career producing large-scale events for the Portland Business Journal. She spent seven years in that position, under the direction and guidance of its President and Publisher, Craig Wessel. Through her time, she developed relationships with the region's top business constituents and served as a community volunteer. She co-founded an organization called “The Angel Squad”– a group of community-driven professionals seeking to deepen relationships with local nonprofits. They blog to raise awareness and meet philanthropic needs through a chain of philanthropists called “Charlies.” She also served on the Ambassador Board for CASA for Children and held the Chair of Governance position for four years. Jan and Joel now live along with their two young children outside the Twin Cities in rural Minnesota. Her hope is to hear about other adventures children have with their special stuffies to inspire a line of books called “The Stuffy Adventures.” She also has a second book already in the works, due out in the Spring of 2020.

Photo Credit: Ryan Hoppes, Picture This PDX