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Feature

Art Kistler impersonating Elvis Presley

PTS employee Art Kistler not only looks and sounds like Elvis but aspires to Presley's legacy of generosity.

All shook up

Community Fund Drive inspires U employee to give like Elvis

By Lisa Bentzin

Brief, Oct. 10, 2007

Art Kistler's eyes sparkle and his voice brims with passion when he talks about his ongoing involvement with the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities' annual Community Fund Drive. The swivel in his hips, however, can be attributed to something else. Kistler's hip action is central to his after-hours calling as an Elvis tribute artist.

By day, Kistler is the maintenance manager with Parking and Transportation Services (PTS). By nights and weekends, he's become a part-time national performer. In spite of his dual career, he manages to squeeze fund-raising into his schedule.

"The needs out there are very real, and it's a chance to make a difference," says Kistler. "Giving is what it is really all about."

Kistler's involvement with the Community Fund Drive began in the 1990s. In 2002, he accepted the assignment to serve as the drive's volunteer contact in his department, and the participation rate in PTS as well as Auxiliary Services reached an all-time high. He attributes it to three things: his one-to-one contact with everyone in his organization, his ability to convey that the money given really does reach and help the target audience, and his use of two important words--"please" and "thank-you."

"Everybody is essential, everyone should participate, everybody wins," says Kistler. And there's another fringe benefit, he jokes: When solicitors call you up, you can legitimately say, "I gave at the office."

Kistler's commitment to give 100 percent comes through not only in his day job at the U but in his night job, too. His vocals are dead-on. After performing at a 50-year high school class reunion recently, a woman apologized for not paying better attention during his show because she assumed he was lip-syncing to Elvis Presley recordings.

"It's an opportunity. We're extremely fortunate to give the little bit that we're not going to miss....That's living."

His aspiration to be like Elvis includes imitating a legacy of giving. Whether giving away Cadillacs or holding a benefit concert toward building the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial at Pearl Harbor, Elvis's generosity became legendary. Today, 30 years after his death, it lives on through the work of a charitable foundation that supports everything from University of Memphis scholarships to free housing for those in need.

That generosity has prompted Kistler to perform for reduced rates or free at several charity and fund-raising events each year. He's also involved in his local church, which he says initially developed his passion for giving.

The live-to-give attitude, along with Kistler's desire to leave a legacy, are what makes him such a zealous promoter of the Twin Cities campus Community Fund Drive. The annual fund-raising effort, which runs Oct. 1-31, enables members of campus community to pull together to raise awareness and money for hundreds of worthy local charities.

The drive has always been a vehicle to help make charitable giving easier through the convenience of one-time or ongoing paycheck deductions. Paycheck deductions also save the charities a lot in time and administrative costs.

Opening hearts and wallets

Major tragedies are often the impetus for people to open their hearts and wallets. Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 tsunami, and September 11, brought human need to the forefront in real and visual ways that many people had not experienced before. Kistler knows the recent collapse of the I-35W bridge will give a special meaning to fund-raising efforts among employees in his unit this year.

WRITE-IN AND OTHER DONATIONS

If the charities you would like to give to are not listed in the CFD directory, you can designate your gift as "Other." You can give to any charity with a U.S. tax-exempt status of 501(c)3. Community Shares of Minnesota will disperse the funds to the charities you designate.

"This is real, [it happened] half a mile away, and we have a very real opportunity to help these people," he says. In the aftermath of any tragedy, Kistler says he seeks out information on organizations that provide support to the victims. It's also important to know that contributions to the Community Fund Drive, made now, assure that funds are available when tragedies like the I-35W bridge collapse occur. Worthy non-profits are able to respond quickly and help with everything from victim assistance to environmental cleanup, thanks to ongoing donations.

How does Kistler respond to those who say they are struggling themselves and can't afford to participate?

"People have legitimate reasons why they may be reluctant to participate," says Kistler. Most of the time, those reasons are financial, he says, and it's hard to convince someone who's struggling that "a dollar, or five dollars or ten--anything--is better than nothing."

"There are people worse off," Kistler says. "It's an opportunity. We're extremely fortunate to give the little bit that we're not going to miss next paycheck anyway. That's for real. That's living."

For more information about giving, see the Community Fund Drive.


Lisa Bentzin is a communications project manager in the Office of Human Resources.