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Thanks and Giving

How THEE Alliance is helping families get out of medical debt and get their lives back

November. A month associated not only with gratitude but also with giving. THEE Alliance Forgiving Medical Debt is an organization that has the rare opportunity to help turn giving into exponential giving and, as a result, grow gratitude in abundance.

One day in the summer of 2019, Skip Lieser was in his car driving and was moved to turn on the radio. He tuned in to the station KTIS and happened upon hearing about an organization called RIP Medical Debt, a non-profit dedicated to buying and forgiving medical debt.  

Skip was intrigued. Having been in finance his whole career, he went home and did some research, calling the founder, and found that RIP had been able to buy up medical debt for pennies on the dollar, releasing families from this burden forever. 

Inspiration struck. 

Skip spoke to his pastor at Lord of Life Church, clergy at other churches, friends and former colleagues, and an idea began brewing. Medical debt has always been a challenge that congregation members have faced. Churches are also often a place where families seek help during hardship. THEE Alliance, under the direction of Skip and with the support from his pastor, experienced their first big success when Lord of Life generously donated $15,000, which paid off an astonishing $1.6 million in debt for 472 families. 

Kris Wenker, a former colleague of Skip’s and fellow member at Lord of Life church, serves on the advisory committee. This model of philanthropic giving is different than others. Kris explains, “It’s always exciting when some charity you care about gets a match. This is 100 to 1 match dollar to dollar. Because RIP is a 5013c charitable organization, there is no tax owed on it. If you are a hardship family and by some stroke of luck a portion is forgiven, the family still owes taxes on it.” But not in this case. 

When a debt is forgiven through the donations of THEE Alliance and the expertise of RIP Medical Debt, families receive a letter in a yellow envelope that notifies them that their debt has been forgiven. This debt is also erased off their credit record. It’s a fresh start in every way. “I think the key thing is unlike any other debt, house, credit card, those are all things you take an action that resulted in it. Nobody tries to take on medical debt. You just got sick,” Kris says.

By the summer of 2021, an interfaith group was assembled. THEE Alliance has an even broader mission than a single church or group of related churches doing good work. Kris says, “One church raising funds can do great work. But a partnership of churches in alliance…Skip’s vision is what drives the alliance.” This power of collective effort extends to all faith communities. 

Skip explains, “I’d like to see more churches involved but also any and all faith communities. We all have giving and helping our neighbors in common.” 

Fast forward to 2022, THEE Alliance can now direct funds to specific states (Minnesota!) and even specific zip codes. Kris says, “It’s a tremendous opportunity for local Minnesotans to help one another. If ever there was a time, now is it.” 

While no one has a crystal ball, we all have dreams of future accomplishments. So far, the 17 members have forgiven $38 million for over 29 thousand families. Skip says, “I just have a vision that someday in the future, maybe I could open up the paper and see a headline of $100 million of debt forgiven. That would help 50,000 families or more.” Ambitious goals driven by a man with a big heart. “Medical debt was not a choice for them but forgiving it is a choice for us.” 

When Skip retired from corporate life in 2009, he knew he had more time to spend with family, enjoy grandchildren and serve on boards. But his wife mentioned at his retirement event that perhaps he would find something new he enjoyed doing. Possibly something that would be even more important to him. 

So I had to inquire…was she right? 

“Yes. She absolutely was. I mean, I really loved my career. Many great years. But this…Whereas this, well, this is all about the families. All about the families. I followed an inspiration, and it’s been amazing to see what we can do when we come together. I give all the credit to our team of pastors, hospitals, donors, all the partners.” 

To read more about THEE Alliance and their big dreams or find a way to get involved, visit their website at:

This Thanksgiving, you could give in the spirit of loving thy neighbor, and the recipient could be your actual neighbor.