Ashlee and Chris Kleinert Empower Others With Enthusiasm
by Kristin Cicciarelli | Contributor
“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ashlee and Chris Kleinert have certainly taken this quote to heart. In 2008, during the country’s financial crisis, the Dallas couple and parents of three grown children founded Executives in Action (EIA), a pro bono consulting firm connecting out-of-work senior level executives with nonprofit organizations. “Unemployment was high,” Chris says. “We’d seen in personal relationships how job loss can have a devastating effect on both employees and their families.” At the same time, many nonprofits were struggling to keep operations going due to decreased donations.
“The impact of EIA is two-fold,” says Ashlee. “The executives feel like they’re contributing to something greater, and the nonprofit benefits from their expertise, which they probably couldn’t otherwise afford. It’s more than a temporary job—it’s a life changing experience,” she says.
Since its inception, EIA has partnered with more than 270 nonprofits and utilized the expertise of nearly 700 executives. They’re now considering “Students in Action”, capturing what they believe is the younger generation’s prevalent philanthropic spirit.
Ashlee, the daughter of Nancy Ann and Ray L. Hunt, CEO of Hunt Consolidated, grew up seeing charity in action. The notion of quiet philanthropy has stayed with her through adulthood, and it’s something she’s shared with Chris since they met. In her soft-spoken way, Ashlee claims, “There’s nothing special about Chris and me—we’re just part of a team of really good people and great collaborators, trying to figure out where we can do the best work.”
And then, there are Ruthie’s Food Trucks, the highly successful company that Ashlee started in 2011. One of Ruthie’s philanthropic programs, Ruthie’s Dozen, promotes a different nonprofit each month through print and social media. Ashlee says, “We figured the sides of our trucks are a great place to post information. People can read all about a nonprofit while they wait. We’ve had wonderful feedback from donors, volunteers and also recipients who were unaware of the services offered.”
Ruthie’s Random Snacks of Kindness (RSK) program gives back to the community by offering free food to those in need. The recent Executives in Action Kind Truck allows executives to deliver items such as books for schools, canned goods for food pantries or supplies for victims of an apartment fire.
More recently, the Kleinerts have turned their passion to New Friends New Life, which helps women and girls who’ve been trafficked and/or sexually exploited. Though Ashlee has been involved with the organization for a long time, she and Chris know that human trafficking is a growing problem. Earlier this year, the organization formed the Men’s Advocacy Group, twenty men dedicated to education, advocacy and awareness. “The good news is, drug laws have gotten stricter,” Chris says, “but unfortunately, many drug dealers have turned to trafficking and those laws haven’t yet caught up.”
Shockingly, Ashlee discovered a trafficking operation in the very Addison office park where Ruthie’s is based. Decreased parking availability and numerous men going in and out of what looked like an empty office space at all hours prompted her to call the police, who shut down the operation. “Trafficking is happening right before our eyes,” she says. “We have to be more aware and do something about it.”
The Kleinert’s enthusiasm for everything they do is certainly contagious. While they tirelessly pour their hearts into so many good things, Chris offers this excellent advice: “It’s important to find your passion—what motivates you to help others. Wherever you’re most passionate is where you’ll make the most difference.” Empowering others to pursue their passions? That sounds just like Ashlee and Chris Kleinert.