Rev. Mark and Kathy Helge - True Friends and a Blessing to Others

Portrait of Mark Helge Portrait of Kathy Helge

Mark and Kathy Helge's roots run deep in the Lutheran community. Growing up in Chicago, Mark remembered his Sunday school collecting change for Nachusa Lutheran Home. The Helges met at Valparaiso University, and they have been generous philanthropically to Lutheran organizations. For their commitment and generosity, Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) will honor the Helges with the True Friend Award on October 10 at its 39th annual gala themed "Home is Where the Heart is."

LSSI presents the True Friend Award annually to persons or organizations making a significant contribution to the human community. As Rockford residents and members of Christ Lutheran Church, Belvidere, the Helges' generosity has impacted a large cross section of people here and abroad.

Kathy noted that the word "philanthropy" comes from the Latin root "to love others." "As Christians, that fits," she said. They're continuing the philanthropic tradition modeled by Mark's aunt, Marion Breen.

Mark said their philanthropy is inspired largely from the Gospel of Matthew, 25:40: "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me. They also have confidence in LSSI's leadership." "I've had congregations in both the northern and southern parts of the state," he said. "I'm glad LSSI is reaching out to those in need. That's something we can be proud of."

The Helges' support has been instrumental in helping LSSI advance its strategic vision of Whole Person Care. They noted several programs where that is reflected. Kathy was inspired by LSSI's Storybook Project, which fosters connections between children and their incarcerated parent through personal recordings of storybooks. "Substance use treatment is important," Mark said. "Having been in congregational ministry, I've known people who need that help."

"We've been blessed to be a blessing to others," Kathy said.