In 1993, 12-year-old Polly Klaas was abducted from her home in Northern California. Her parents, Violet and Marc Klaas, spent two frantic months searching for her before her remains were discovered. During that time they stopped going to work. Bills piled up. Loans went unpaid. “If we hadn’t had family willing to assist us out of those difficulties we could have lost our home, and maybe even had to declare bankruptcy,” Marc Klaas said.
Klaas recently partnered with a California Real Estate agent to start a fund providing housing assistance to parents of missing children.
The housing problems Marc and Violet Klaas experienced during their daughter’s disappearance gnawed at them. “I know that what we went through is replicated throughout this country on a regular basis,” Marc Klaas said.
This month, their child safety nonprofit, the Klaas Kids Foundation, partnered with Tracy McLaughlin, a Real Estate agent with Pacific Union International in San Francisco to create the fund. McLaughlin, a mother of three, had similar concerns after watching a recent broadcast about a missing child.
“I see the poor parents at the podium and they look so forlorn and sad, “McLaughlin said. “What happens to (that) family? What happens with employment? How do they make their mortgage payments?”
McLaughlin contacted Klaas and the two began to brainstorm. After a few months of collaboration they founded the Klaas Family Housing fund to provide housing grants to families of missing children. Klaas said that the fund is one of a kind, which is a source of pride and disappointment.
“To my knowledge, there’s nothing even close to this,” Klaas said.
Michelle Knight became the first recipient of the fund several months later after she was rescued from a house in Cleveland, Ohio in May 2013. Knight, who was abducted in 2002, had been imprisoned and sexually abused for over a decade.
“She was the one victim who didn’t have a family to go back to,” Klaas said. “And given that she had been living as in captivity, we realized her needs were extreme if she was going to be able to get her life back together.”
McLaughlin and Klaas reached out to Knight’s lawyer and arranged to donate $6,000 for her housing needs.
“She was incredibly appreciative,” McLaughlin said. “She wrote a beautiful note to Marc and me.”
McLaughlin has supplied the majority of the fund, donating a fixed percentage of every commission and accepting donations from clients. The fund stands at $20,000 and its future looks promising. One of McLaughlin’s clients recently donated $5,000, and several Real Estate agents have reached out to help. But McLaughlin said for the charity to be truly effective, she’d like to see the entire Real Estate industry contribute. She cited John Paul Mitchell Systems as an example of a company that has successfully cross-branded with a specific philanthropy.
Klaas said he hopes that as the fund grows, so does the interest of other organizations.
“We like to be leaders in this field,” Klaas said. “But we hope others will pick up on what we’re doing and find other ways to help these desperate families.”
To help the cause by donating to the fund, visit www.klaaskids.org.