YOUR STORY: Caitlin Crosby of The Giving Keys

A simple key. It could open a lock, the door to your home... it could set a person free.  After talking to Caitlin Crosby, founder of The Giving Keys.... I realized that a key can mean so many things, but the greatest thing it can give is hope.

When I asked Caitlin to tell me the story of The Giving Keys, she was happy to tell me of it's humble beginnings and the beautiful people who inspired it all! Two years ago, she was on her music tour and getting the word out about her website, loveyourflawz.com, which encourages girls dealing with body image issues. She was selling T-shirts and bags at her merch table and she got an idea...

  "One day I was at a locksmith and I had the idea to have the locksmith engrave "Love Your Flawz" on an old key. I said 'Oh while you're at it can you also engrave LOVE and HOPE and STRENGTH and FEARLESS, LET GO, etc.'  So then I put them on necklaces and chains and leather and started selling them on tour.  Every night they would sell out."

With such a popular item for sale, Caitlin started thinking about how the keys could be used for good!

  "Once you get one, I want you to embrace the word on there  and then keep an eye out for somebody you feel could use the message on the key. Then go back to the website and blog the story of why you gave it away. Then all these stories started pouring in of all the keys being passed around the world ... I knew there was a missing link. I knew I wanted the money to go to charity, but I didn't know what, so I just waited for like 6 months."

She didn't know she'd meet the "missing link" on the streets of LA, where she'd seen so much heartache. She was leaving church on Hollywood Blvd. and wondered about the big picture...

 "What's the meaning of life? Why are we here? I want to do more to help people but I don't know what....Then I saw I homeless couple sitting in the rain in a puddle holding up a sign that said "Ugly, Hungry, Homeless".  I went up to them, got their life story, and ended up taking them to dinner." A couple of hours in, she found out that the woman made the beautiful necklace she wore and Caitlin said this was her "aha-moment".  She ended up asking them to be her business partners!

"Then I started hiring them to engrave the keys. I went to Pepboys, bought some hammers and got the engraving equipment and then little by little they saved up and started staying in a motel from The Giving Keys employing them. Then, little by little they saved up and moved into an apt and got their GED!  It grew to selling thousands of keys and being in all these stores...and then I went to hiring and got up to 11 people that were trying to transition... Now, so far, we've gotten 5 or 6 people off the street and transitioned into their own apt."

I also asked Caitlin why she thought it was important for people to share the story of their key on The Giving Keys website.  She said, "I think stories are important because I think that the whole point of life is to keep your eye out for our fellow man and take care of each other and to not hoard what we have." The stories help us be aware of needs and give us examples of ways to help people. She hopes the stories shared will show people how to live out the word on the key over and over again. 

When I asked what one word she would engrave on a key describing the journey of starting The Giving Keys, she thought for a moment and then confidently answered, "Hope."

She explained that the hope the keys offer is actually two sided.  One side is the hope of the employed engravers transitioning out of homelessness. She said it gives them the hope "that they are important and can get back on their feet and can change their life again." The other side, she explains, is the person who wears a key who may be encouraged through a hard time. Then they are able to pass it someone else who needs it. Who knew a key could offer so much?

Caitlin Crosby is inspired to make a difference through The Giving Keys as well as her music. She uses both avenues to make a difference in the world around her. With her passion to end human trafficking, she has not only donated keys to organizations, but also written songs to raise awareness and send a message to the young girls in LA. 

"So that's what the giving keys represents. They represent stories and they represent a lot of darkness and struggles that people are going through, but from the keys and also my music, I'm hoping to create products that can help people and bring them hope whether it be jamming out to a song in their car or their room, or wearing a key and then giving it to somebody else and knowing the story that went into making the key as well  "

Caitlin also encourages us to find ways to make a difference in the world around us.

  "Keep your eyes open to all of the needs you see around you. For instance, you don't have to be a jewelry maker to do it. You don't have to start a non-profit. With me, one of my other passions is writing songs and the whole point of me writing songs is to hopefully help people... I think it's just as simple as that. For people, whatever gift they have to try to look at the needs they see around them in their daily life or their school or their work place or their friends and try to think of something creative they could do to help."

Check out Caitlin's TED Talk where she offers these words to inspire us to get involved ...
"Keep your eyes open. There are locks all around you Maybe you hold the key to someone else's freedom." 

The Giving Keys photos by Matt Schuler //www.snowtone.org
Album Cover photo by Chloe Aftel Studio

A special thanks to Caitlin Crosby for taking the time for a phone interview with me! 

Support her music on itunes and visit her website.

Be sure to visit The Giving Keys Shop to be a part of making a difference in the lives of people transitioning out of homelessness. 

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