by Tracey Breashears Schultz, Bishop’s Associate for Leadership
Keith Hitchcock, along with his wife, Margaret, has been a member at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in The Woodlands for about forty years. He’s not one to brag or to pat himself on the back, but he will tell you his faith is important to him, and his church family has been a steady source of support and community.
The way Keith tells the story, his call to benevolence and generosity started with a garden hose. About five years ago, in the first week in October, Margaret mentioned to Keith that they needed a new garden hose. Keith, newly retired, shopped at four different stores and did a cost comparison before deciding on the aforementioned hose. When he got home, he realized how he had spent half his day, and he told himself he had to do something different with his life!
Around this time, he attended a Family Camp weekend at Camp Lutherhill (La Grange, TX). His granddaughters, who live in the city, were able to look up at the stars and take in God’s good creation. He delighted in their joy, and he wanted to provide this experience for others. Keith wondered what it would take to send kids to camp who might not otherwise have the opportunity.
He began talking to others about his idea, and another church member, a friend, mentioned to Keith her work with the Texas Foster Care Association (TFCA). They began to think together about whether foster families have had much opportunity to experience camp and community. He asked the TFCA what they would do with such an offer, and he asked Matt and Pastor Jen Kindsvatter whether the camp could partner with him and TFCA to offer retreat weekends to foster families. Everyone responded in the affirmative.
Keith pulled together a board for the non-profit that was taking off. (He called them a board, and then he added, it really started with three of his golfing buddies and their spouses. I loved his honesty.) When Keith told them his vision, they were energized, and they got to work fundraising, creating a website, getting certified as a non-profit by the IRS, and giving their project a name.
The board settled on “Project Liftoff” through phone calls and lunch conversations at Carrabba’s. When I asked about the name, Keith told me his vision had taken off, so there was that aspect, but he thinks a retreat at camp could be just what some of these children need to launch them into something greater. He sometimes imagines a child who has been to a Project Liftoff retreat working on their homework some afternoon while singing songs to themselves they learned at camp. His greatest hope is “these kids, who’ve had a tough life, know that someone loves them.” If they are introduced to Christ through this experience, then all the better! They don’t proselytize, but they offer the opportunity for chapel, and Keith trusts God is at work among them.
Project Liftoff has sent 352 individuals to Lutherhill for retreat weekends. This includes one retreat for All Ears (listening and language center) and five retreats for TFCA. They estimate 66 families have been to camp who might not otherwise have been able to go. At the end of the retreats, Project Liftoff asks retreat participants to fill out a survey so they receive feedback from those they’ve sponsored. Their testimonials are motivation for Keith to continue in this ministry and to invite others to join him.
As he told me this, smiling widely, I said, “Keith, it sounds like you’ve come a long way from that garden hose.” He laughed and nodded his head, saying, “I’d say so, yes.”
To donate to Project Liftoff, visit their website. Donations are tax-deductible. One-hundred percent of the proceeds they receive are given to the cause. (The board absorbs administrative costs.) To ask questions of the board or to join their mission, contact them through their website: https://projectliftofffoundation.com/