What If Everyone Helped Just One?
| by Carol Best firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tollefsons have been friends of the university for nearly 30 years, as parents of an alum, Cary (’89), and as steadfast supporters.
Allen and Madeline Tollefson’s passion to give is all about changing lives: the lives of those they serve in missions work, the lives of young people they encounter and the lives of those they have met traveling to 70 countries during the last 40 years. The owners of AG Tollefson & Co. Inc, a Lecompton, Kansas, company that constructs pre-fabricated buildings, say they have been blessed with business success. That success has allowed them to assist many. From small churches, here and abroad, to missions work around the world, to students at MNU.
"We love to give," Allen says. "The business was a vehicle to help us share our heart for missions."
It was on a mission trip to Haiti that Madeline says the couple’s calling to serve others was solidified.
“We went on a trip to Haiti, and we were broken," she recalls.
In particular, the couple feels called to expose young people to missions, and for the last 30 years, that focus has transformed young lives by expanding their worldview. This effort, of 14 MNU mission trips to 11 countries, has linked Allen and Madeline to the university in a growing relationship that now includes a comprehensive gift for the university’s Bright Futures campaign. The gift supports several areas of need at the university.
“Allen and Madeline have been giving to MNU for a long time,” says Jon North, vice president for university advancement and a friend of the Tollefsons. “In fact, I met them as a student on a mission trip when I was in college. Now they serve on our campaign executive committee and they’ve committed a significant gift to Bright Futures.”
It was at one of those committee meetings that Allen learned of a need certain students have.
“Once I learned how frustrating it is for students who have worked so hard to attend college but still have a financial gap between what they’ve saved, what they can borrow and the cost of college,” Allen says, “I thought, if we can’t help them, it would be pathetic.”
Right away, the couple decided to add to the gift they already made to Bright Futures and designated the increase for scholarships to help retain those students.
Quickly, Allen turns the conversation back to transforming lives. He tells a story of a young man on one of their mission trips who stayed up late one night talking to Allen about his future. Confused about changing majors and perhaps disappointing his family, this student, now an alum, is doing emergency response and missionary work all over the world. And his parents couldn’t be happier.
Another student they met on a mission trip told Allen she was feeling pressure from others to marry. A discussion about waiting for God’s best, rather than succumbing to outside pressures, ended up being more important than Allen thought at the time.
“Years later she got in touch with us and told us she’d waited, then married a pastor, and they were serving the Lord. I didn’t think I was doing anything important [talking to her] at the time,” Allen recalls.
While the Tollefsons love to work with students on mission trips, they also have a heart for the students back on campus. A major portion of their campaign gift is going toward the new student center, which will contain spaces for dining, congregating, studying and relaxing. The couple believes that the facility, meant to be a hub for student activity and resources, should be top quality.
“These kids are away from home,” Madeline says. “Maybe their classes are difficult and maybe they get discouraged. They need a light, airy place to have a cup of coffee, study, meet their friends. A happy, encouraging environment can actually help.”
Allen is reminded that MNU is competing against universities with newer facilities. “Having a nice facility has an impact. It keeps MNU in the decision-making mix.”
Remembering another mission trip, Madeline mentions attorney and MNU Board of Trustees member Chad Cook (’96), who recently assisted the couple with yet another gift to MNU. Desiring to direct where their assets would go after their lives, Allen and Madeline made estate plans that included MNU.
If you help even one, who knows how God will use that.
“Ecclesiastes deals with that, and Solomon says you can work and work and have no control over where your estate goes when you die,” Allen adds. “If you take care of that before you die, you have some say in where it ends up. After all, it’s God’s money.”
While some might wonder if every gift matters, Allen encourages others to think about it this way.
“Even if a gift is small, if it could help one student, who knows the ripple effect that one student will have? What if everyone helped just one?”
The Tollefsons are hosting an event for MNU at their home this spring where they hope to share their vision for helping students at MNU with friends and family.