Interview conducted by Brandon Pugh- Egyptian Theatre Intern.
Shawn Blobaum is a financial consultant for Thrivent Financial. Thrivent creates financial strategies that help Christians be wise with money and live generously. They offer a broad range of financial products and services, including life insurance, annuities and mutual funds, plus tailored guidance from financial representatives nationwide.
Shawn: Thrivent Financial is a financial services company, which does investing and insurance. We do life insurance, disability insurance, and long term care insurance. We also have our own sets of mutual funds and other investing vehicles. What makes us different than probably any other company out there is that we are a not for profit and what that means is that we are considered a fraternal organization. When you’re a not for profit and a fraternal organization, you have to have a common bond. That common bond used to be Lutheran and now is that you have to be a Christian to work with us. All fraternal organizations have that common bond element. With that we also get a special tax status as a not profit that although we do make a profit and instead of that money being taxed and that money go to the government, we give that money back to churches, schools, and communities. We are a 100 billion company and last year we gave around 200 million dollars back to churches and schools. There is that spiritual element in trying to help other churches with their different ministries, etc. Right here in DeKalb County, I think last year was about $50,000 that was raised by our local churches and we maybe matched funds or we gave them funds, lots of different ways. We are the biggest partner with Habitat for Humanity. We built three homes right here in DeKalb where Thrivent paid for half the cost of the home. We haven’t done one in the past year or two, but we have done three over the past seven years. It’s amazing.
Brandon: When was Thrivent established?
Shawn: 1905, I believe. It was called Aid Association for Lutherans and then there was another company called Lutheran Brotherhood and they merged in 2001 to become Thrivent. Both of those companies competed against each other for the Lutheran market, which was interesting. It was two years ago that we opened it up to all Christians and that’s where it’s kind of bloomed since then.
Brandon: How long have you been with Thrivent?
Shawn: I started in the fall of 2008. The worst time in the market, but we survived.
Brandon: What was the biggest struggle with that?
Shawn: I was new in the industry, but trying to talk people off the ledge. Literally off the ledge. Don’t cash out. Since then, the people that stayed in, road through and now probably have more money than they did before 2008. I’m no genius but it happened that if you could stomach that, you made it through and you survived. It was more of a psychological or social experiment for me, trying to get people to not cash out.
Brandon: What is the best thing about coming to work for you everyday?
Shawn: For me, it’s an expression of my faith too. I get to work with people who have the same values as I have. Helping people be wise with money. The Thrivent model of the Thrivent way right now is we are a Christian organization; a Christian membership organization helping people be wise with money so they can live generous lives. Helping people live generous lives is what we feel makes communities thrive. That’s what is so much fun; talking to people about how do you protect yourself and your family, help your funds grow, be wise with your money so that the end goal is that you could be generous. That’s been a lot of fun. It’s amazing when people start being generous they help places like The Egyptian Theatre. Even The Egyptian Theatre has received lots of funds from Thrivent and will continue to. They’re on with a new program starting sometime in December called Thrivent Choice where Thrivent members from all over the country can send a few bucks of Thrivent’s dollars right here.
Brandon: How frequent does Thrivent host events like these?
Shawn: At least once a year at least for the past four or five years, sometimes twice. I know one year we helped sponsor breakfast with the bunny for Easter. We usually do a Christmas movie. For several years it was It’s a Wonderful Life and then last year we changed it to The Polar Express. All the It’s a Wonderful Life were upset. This year we are going to do White Christmas because a lot of people wanted us to do White Christmas and you know, we might still be upsetting the It’s a Wonderful Life people, but we’re going to try White Christmas this year.
Brandon: White Christmas is a classic though!
Shawn: Yeah, we’ll see!
Brandon: Do you have a favorite memory here at the theatre?
Shawn: Yeah, I was thinking about that earlier. I think the first movie event we did here, it was a Saturday afternoon, just before Christmas. We did show It’s a Wonderful Life. It was a perfect day out. It began to snow, there were carriage rides going around and there was Santa Claus across the street. We set it up where if you bring some food items for one of the local shelters then they got a discount off the ticket price. We had a really big crowd that day; it was awesome. We collected a ton of food; I think an entire pic-up load of food. It was all non-perishable food items that we took to the shelter. We’ve done that for several years. Last year we helped an organization called Bethesda Homes, which is for handicap and other challenged people. We collected paper items, paper goods for them because they are always in need of that. There’s two or three Bethesda Homes here in DeKalb County so we were able to help in that respect. This year we are going to do a movie, White Christmas, but we’re going to collect art supplies actually to help with the Youth Service Bureau’s Art Therapy Program; collect some art supplies and again a discount again to come see the movie. Trying to help people be generous. We call it practicing generosity.
Brandon: Going into the Holidays, what is something that you’re excited for?
Shawn: It seems like things get really busy for us and our work right around now for the next two or three weeks and then all of a sudden, the phones stop ringing, it’s Christmas time, you can maybe relax, take a deep breath, be home with family and then focus about family. That’s the most exciting thing. I have a five year old and she’s really getting into Christmas and Santa Claus so it’s a lot of fun right now.
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