Here’s how it all started.
Karen’s friend and former boss placed a call to her good friend, former Be The Match president Christine Fleming. “Find this woman something to do!” she said. Karen had retired from a Minneapolis law firm on December 31, 2012, where she’d been a legal assistant. She’d made good friends in her 31-year career there, but her favorite part of the job had always been organizing the firm’s social events and charity fundraisers. For those first few months after retirement, the newly inactive Karen felt a bit adrift.
“I read more books than you’d think possible,” Karen jokes, “and bothered my friends to the point that I think they were happy for Caller ID.”
Clearly, Karen—and her friends—were ready for her to move on to the next chapter. Three days later, Karen Milne found herself in the offices of Be The Match, where she was recruited to work on the silent auction for the annual gala. Three months after that Karen was asked to chair the event. She’s served in that role since 2013.
BLAZING NEW TRAILS
That next chapter has proven to be a happy one for Be The Match and for Karen. Along with raising money, it’s the challenge and sociability of acquiring silent auction items that most appeals to her. To that end, Karen, whose soft-spoken demeanor masks a very determined spirit, often teams up with her good friend and fellow volunteer Michelle Vance to scout out new donations. “Michelle’s very outgoing,” says Karen. “It’s fun to go to new places together and see what kinds of reactions we get—most often, we get the job done.”
Finding items for BTM’s silent auction is a matter of being aware of your surroundings, businesses in particular, and thinking about what people might like to bid on. In fact, says Karen with a smile, “My family got tired of going places with me because I was always ‘scanning the horizon’ for new opportunities.”
In their brainstorming and horizon-scanning, Karen and her silent auction committee have discovered how popular experience packages have become. Everyone expects there to be an array of great items, she notes, but experiences are often unique and surprising, prompting people to bid on them.
For instance, using their connections, the committee put together a “first pitch” experience with the Minnesota Twins, as well as an opportunity to “come out of the tunnel” with the University of Minnesota football team. Working the the Plymouth fire department, they arranged a “Day in the Life of a Firefighter” experience for several lucky kids. “That was very popular,” says Karen.
The 2015 silent auction featured 200-plus items and experiences, and raised $35,000. “Of course, next year we want to do even better,” says Karen.
A NATURAL VOLUNTEER
Karen’s dedication to volunteering has deep roots. In her hometown of Rolla, North Dakota, her parents were consummate volunteers. “My dad was president or chair of everything in town, mom too,” Karen remembers. “They taught us that giving back enriches your life as well as the lives of those you’re helping.”
Along with her work for Be The Match, the mother of three and grandmother of eight also chairs events for other Twin Cities’ organizations, and substitute-teaches with the Robbinsdale school district. The flexibility of working when she wants to gives her more time for the charity activities that draw her to them.
WHY I VOLUNTEER
“I’m not the kind of person to sit around—maybe someday but not now,” says Karen. “Working with Be The Match fills up my time, and my heart.”