When Janesville natives Tad and Gina Hartlaub were newlyweds with small children, they had a lean year and prayed for God to help them.
“Shortly afterwards, a check arrived along with a letter of support from a fellow Christian, and it was enough to be able to meet our needs, and we thought, ‘This is great,’” Tad said.
In gratitude, the couple set up what they called their “God storehouse,” where they set aside a little extra money to meet the needs of other people.
When crowdfunding sites such as GoFundMe and YouCaring came along, Tad had the idea to combine crowdsourced fundraising and the generosity of Christians. He launched a nonprofit called Blessity.
Janesville residents Mark and Kathy Norby experienced how it works firsthand.
Mark had a stroke a year and a half ago, and Kathy took off work to help him. Not long afterward, Kathy sustained a stress fracture in her foot and then had to have a mass surgically removed from her lung. Those life events kept her from working for several more weeks, she said.
Their income dwindled. Bills piled up, and new needs surfaced. That’s when Blessity stepped in.
The Hartlaubs and Norbys met at Brothers Main Appliance & TV in Janesville on Saturday to shop for a refrigerator the Norbys needed. The Hartlaubs also gave the Norbys checks to help them pay their mortgage and utility bills.
“The money thing has been such an issue, obviously, but I can’t even express how thankful that we are for all of this help,” Kathy said. “It means everything to us.”
Blessity works a lot like other crowdfunding sites, but there’s a greater sense of trust, Gina said.
Only churches that are partnered with Blessity can submit the needs of those within their congregations or communities. That way, the nonprofit can verify a person’s needs are real, Gina said.
Partnering with Blessity is a free process.
Fraudulent crowdfunding campaigns surfaced last year after the Las Vegas shooting, and police spent time chasing down people who used other people’s compassion to cash in, Tad said. Blessity aims to avoid that.
“Unlike GoFundMe, where someone could raise money and then use it for something else, like a vacation, and make up a story, this money has to go to, like, their mortgage lender,” Gina said.
“We bring a trustworthiness and an accountability to the crowdfunding process,” Tad said.
Churches work with Blessity to set a limit on how much a family needs, and the church pays a small percentage to cover operating costs. The rest of the money pours in from donors and other churches, Gina said.
For maybe $100 on a church’s end, a needy family could get $1,500 worth of help, she said.
“What’s cool is you see people from California, East Coast, from Florida, Texas donating,” Tad said. “It’s really the whole Christian community coming together to go ahead and meet the needs of others.”
“People just give it. It’s just fantastic,” Gina said.
Money raised isn’t deposited into a bank account. Instead, 100 percent of donations go directly to meet people’s needs in the form of checks to utility companies, gas cards or even the purchase of a refrigerator.
Tad and Gina don’t have salaries through Blessity. “We don’t take any money from it, so the reward is what we get to see impacting people’s lives,” Gina said.
They dream of Blessity becoming a nationwide crowdfunding platform that brings the Christian community together to help others.
“To be involved and to be kind of the hands of God and be examples of the love of God toward his children in need, it’s a beautiful thing to see that,” Tad said. “It really is.”