Since she was a little girl, Lisa Mathis was taught to give back to the community. Now, with three kids of her own she is leading them by example as she serves her community in her position as the Development Officer at Housing Opportunities.
Mathis did not have the regular, high school, to college, to job, to family timeline, she said. It is more unique than that, and yet she would not have had it any other way.
She had her first child at a young age. Michael, now 22 and a graduate of Ball State University, was born several weeks before Mathis lost her father in a car accident.
Growing up on a farm in La Porte County, she and her siblings were taught to work hard so that they could in turn help and serve others, so the passion for philanthropy always ran very deep in her veins, she said.
For a few years, Mathis was working for her brother, helping him manage some of the several businesses he owned in the city of Valpo. However, she knew in her heart that she needed to do more for the community.
So, about two years ago, she started working at Housing Opportunities and has loved every minute of her job ever since.
“I knew of the organization and what they do and how they give back to the community,” she said. “I saw the position was available, so I went for it. I knew it was the philanthropy and nonprofit type of sector I wanted to be a part of.”
As the development officer, she works a lot with all of the donors, keeping them in tune with how the organization is using their dollars and why it is important to continue to support the organization.
She also helps the staff organize and put on events. The organization hosts several large events every year that are put on in the community to raise awareness and funds. Plus, she works with the volunteer coordinator for people who come to the organization and may not be able to donate money, but can donate their time.
“We make sure everyone has the opportunity to give. Everybody wants to give in a different way that they feel will fulfill their philanthropic goals,” she said. “So, we make sure if it is their time or their treasures, that we make that happen.”
What she loves about the organization is that she is able to teach her kids to have the same philanthropic desire that she was taught. According to Mathis, the entire staff is 100 percent able to “walk the talk,” instead of using the talk of the “shoulds,” “woulds.”
“We are not only giving back, but we are able to share amazing work,” she said. “We have a really great team. I play a small part in the organization at Housing Opportunities, and we each bring something incredibly special. We all have different strengths. We strive together as a team to serve the under-served and give people a hand up and not a hand out.”
Mathis hopes to show her kids that though you can always open your wallet to give something, it is also very rewarding to physically help by getting in the trenches, and seeing the people you’re helping.
At events, Mathis brings her 13-year-old daughter to volunteer, like passing out water to the homeless community, and at work, her little 6-year-old son loves to pass out flyers and donations to her staff.
“I know he doesn’t quite understand the clients we serve, but one day he will,” she said. “I want to lead by example for him to learn.”
Mathis also served on the Board of Directors at the Duneland Chamber of Commerce for the last three years. Though Housing Opportunities is based in Valpo, the organization reaches the homeless throughout Northwest Indiana.
“They are supportive of our organization, attend events and sign up to help at events,” she said. “We have a great partnership and are grateful that the staff and board are so supportive of our mission.”
Right now Mathis is in another sort of transition. She continues to live in La Porte County with her two kids – her oldest son is living near St. Louis – and she is engaged to be married soon.
"I have to also give much praise to my fiancé. He has been very instrumental with continuing to encourage me to always see the good and re-calibrate when needed," she said.
Free time is rare, but when it comes, Mathis loves spending it sitting in a big, comfy chair or out on her deck with a good book.
“I know it is nerdy of me, but I love a good book,” she said. “I love diving into a good book and getting lost.”
Her story is unique, but it is the beautiful, crazy, path that led her to where she is now.
"Everyday may not be good, but there is good in every day," said Mathis.
For more information on Housing Opportunities, click here.