Meet Fleece & Thank You’s Director of Finance, Morgan Garmo.
What were you like as a kid?
I was a very quiet kid growing up. I was a family girl who loved reading her books. As I became older I acquired a passion for sports. I swam for 8 years, played softball and eventually committed to playing travel volleyball all through high school.
When did you first realize you had a passion for giving?
My passion for giving back was developed in high school. My parents were very involved with Mott Children’s hospital foundation. My Freshman year I volunteered at their fundraiser, The Event on Main, and was amazed by the work that was put into this fundraiser. The street was shut down, four restaurants were closed for the event and they had live entertainment. After meeting the team behind the event I wanted to find a way to help give back to my community. I decided to start a philanthropy club at my high school in the hopes of building the bridge between the students and fundraising department.
Who are some of your greatest mentors that helped you make Fleece & Thank You a reality?
I had a lot of mentors who really stepped up to help us make Fleece & Thank You what it is today. My Father, Mark Garmo, who gave up a large portion of his shop so we could have free working space. Lorron James, who agreed to be on our board and has helped us find platforms to spread our mission. The individuals who work in Institutional Advancement and professors at Albion College who have looked over our grants and helped us with marketing. Family and friends who have donated their time and money to ensure we are successful. I am humbled everyday by the people who have helped us make Fleece & Thank You what it is today.
Can you paint a picture in words of what it feels like to deliver blankets to a child in the hospital?
Delivering blankets is a very humbling experience. It is really hard to put words to the emotions I feel when I deliver blankets. I was blessed with a healthy childhood and that was something I really took for granted. It is heartbreaking to see children much younger than myself fighting battles that are a lot more difficult than any workout I have ever done or class I have ever taken. Yet, they always are so grateful.
Was there ever a time you thought you were in way over your head?
Fleece & Thank You started in October of 2015 and I joined them in November of 2015. The first time I thought we were in over our heads was during our first holiday season. We had collected over a thousand blankets and video messages but we lacked a sustainable system to process the blankets. We spent countless hours matching blankets to videos. We also lacked warehouse space, which was a logistical nightmare.
Is there anything along this journey of making your dream a reality that has come easy to you?
Creating a strong foundation and support system for Fleece & Thank You came pretty easy to me. A lot of the businessmen and woman I knew stepped up and helped us out in different ways. Having that support system from the very beginning was a huge asset.
If you had to pick one thing in your life you worked the hardest for, what would it be?
Finding balance in my life has been the hardest thing for me to work towards. I like to participate in a lot of different activities and organizations, but I also like to have leadership positions in the organizations I work with. Finding the balance between work and sleep has been something I have worked very hard to find.
How many hours do you sleep?
I try to keep myself on a consistent sleeping schedule, especially when I am in school. I am usually sleeping by 10 and am up by 6.
Was there ever a dream or goal you let go of?
For a while I wanted to play college volleyball, but when I began looking at colleges I fell in love with a small D3 school. I decided to be the “smart kid” instead of the athlete.
Who are some of the most influential people you have met through your journey with Fleece & Thank You?
The most influential people I have met on my journey with Fleece & Thank You are the people I work with every single day. Nicholas has a drive that I have never seen before. He is also the most compassionate human I have ever met. He inspires me to be the best version of myself. He always has quirky advice on bad days and is willing to help you with anything you need even though he already has too much on his schedule. Bryce reminds me to smile and not to take things too seriously. Some people have resting brat face, but Bryce has resting smile face.
What inspired you to join Fleece & Thank You?
I joined Fleece & Thank You after my Aunt Nancy met Nicholas at PBJ Outreach in Plymouth. A few weeks after they met, she hosted a blanket event for my extended family. At that event I met Nicholas and I spent my entire winter break prepping blankets for deliveries.
What has been the most rewarding aspect of Fleece & Thank You?
The most rewarding aspect of Fleece & Thank You is understanding the impact we have had on pediatric inpatients and their families. Although we are providing them with the comfort and support of a Fleece & Thank You blanket, they have reminded me about the power of optimism, strength, hope and family.
What has been one of your greatest hurdle working with Fleece & Thank You?
My greatest hurdle working with Fleece & Thank You is staying involved and connected with everyone while attending Albion College. I have a pretty good grasp on it now but balancing school, two jobs and Fleece & Thank You definitely presents its challenges.
What makes Fleece & Thank You’s mission unique?
What sets Fleece & Thank You apart from other organizations is that we were founded on the principle of connection. Not only do our blankets connect donors to our cause, but we also connect with our volunteers. Anyone who volunteers with us knows that everyone on our team is a phone call away. We often refer to our board and volunteers as our Fleece Family which is pretty accurate. The people who make up Fleece & Thank You care about you and love you just like your family would.
What advice do you have for someone trying to start a non-profit?
My advice would be to do a lot of research and build your support system early. If there is another organization that has a similar mission to the organization you want to create, I would recommend joining the other organization. Starting a non-profit is not easy. If you can piggy back off of someone else it is definitely worth your while. Make sure that you have a sustainable system and business plan before you start your non-profit too. Even though you do not have to pay taxes, it is important that you take the same preliminary steps you would in starting a for profit company. My final piece of advice would be to build yourself a support system. Look for mentors who are already in the non-profit world because you will have questions about minutes, board meetings, budgets and everything in between. Having someone who is already familiar with non-profits makes finding those answers a lot easier.
Did your friends and family support you chasing Fleece & Thank You?
My family has been very supportive. My car was full of blankets for months on end and our basement was too. My parents have been providing us warehouse space, which has been a huge blessing. Having free work space has allowed us to focus on our business plan. Both my sister and brother have also done blanket making parties for us too. To say the least, I am a very lucky girl.
How do you take time for yourself to recharge?
I am a yogi so meditating has become second nature to me. When I am waiting in line for coffee, I meditate. When I wake up in the morning, I meditate. When I become stressed out, I meditate. If I have extra time I enjoy working out. In the summer time I also love being on the boat and watching sunsets. I try really hard not to miss the sunset.
What do you consider your biggest failure that has brought you to this success?
I have not lived long enough to have any major failures. When I commit to something I work hard day in and day out until I get the results I am looking for. I would say my biggest failure would have been when I called Lorron James and asked him to be on our board. I had practiced the call for a good two days and even wrote out possible responses and follow up answers. Yet, when he called me back I picked up my phone and absolutely chocked. In the long run it ended up working out. He agreed to be on our board and has been an absolute legend; and I became a Brit Caller so I never chocked on the phone again.
What advice do you think you will have for yourself in 5/10 years?
I think the advice I would have for myself in 5 years and 10 years is the same, don’t change too much. I had a good friend tell me this and it really hit home. As we grow up we tend to make our own path and turn into our own people, but I really like the person I am. I grew up abnormally fast and have had a maturity level that surpasses someone my age ever since I was young. But with that being said, I always want to wake up and be happy. I always want to have the same curiosity for new adventures and ideas. I want to love endlessly and work tirelessly until my dreams become my reality. I want to be the nerd that reads her books, meditates next to the lake and is grateful for every opportunity. I do not want to change too much.
What is your favorite bit of inspiration?
My favorite bit of inspiration (26.08 minutes of inspiration to be exact) is from the one and only Jim Carrey. He gave an amazing speech at Mahrarishi University that you should go watch right now because it will be the high of your day.