The Giving Keys exists to employ those transitioning out of homelessness to engrave recycled keys that get sold and shared around the world. Each key necklace is unique and carries a message like HOPE, STRENGTH, DREAM or COURAGE. When the wearer of the key encounters someone else who needs the message on the key, they give it away and then tell us their story.
How It All Began...
It started with a New York hotel room key. Our founder, actress and singer/songwriter, Caitlin Crosby, wore the key as a necklace and had the idea to start engraving old, used keys with inspirational words at a local LA locksmith. When it was time for her next music tour, she made an assortment of key necklaces to sell at her merch table. Every night, from state to state, the key necklaces would sell-out. Instead of rehearsing and tuning her guitar, she found herself scrambling to find keys and assemble the chains and clasps just to keep up with the demand. Between songs, Caitlin would talk to the audience about embracing their imperfections and her first website, LoveYourFlawz.com. She was beginning to realize that in a way we are all like keys: unique, flawed, scarred, and at risk of being discarded. She asked them to find and wear a key that would remind them that they are one-of-a-kind just like these key necklaces. What if these keys could be a vehicle of hope and inspiration? She started encouraging people to 'pay it forward' by giving their necklace to someone they felt needed the message on the key.
The keys were becoming stories.
As tales of the traveling keys began to pour in, Caitlin knew there was a missing link. Wanting to add a charitable dimension to the business model, it wasn't long before the road ahead became clear. She attended a a church service at Ecclesia Hollywood where they showed the documentary Invisible Children about child soldiers in Uganda. She exited onto Hollywood Blvd with a face full of tears and heart motivated to action and that's when she saw them - a couple who were living on the streets, sitting under an umbrella with a sign that said "Ugly, Broke & Hungry."
Cera and Rob.
They were 23 years old and their stories were profound - having spent the better part of their lives living on the streets. Caitlin ended up taking them to dinner, and realized they were the missing link to The Giving Keys. She then asked them to be her business partners. The next day, she went to Pep Boys to buy hammers and a locksmith to buy an engraving kit. Caitlin started meeting the couple on street corners and in alley ways to pay them cash in exchange for paper bags full of keys, which probably left onlookers feeling like they witnessed a drug deal. This hardworking team laid the foundations for what The Giving Keys has become. As the business grew, Rob and Cera started saving enough to stay in a motel which eventually led to them getting their own apartments. Rob got his GED (in the 98th percentile!) and is currently going to college. Cera got a job at the San Diego Zoo and is studying to be a nutritionist. They both still work for The Giving Keys part-time.
As the business started to develop, we partnered up with the United Way and PATH, a reputable transitional home in LA.. These valuable partners help us build our engraving team through their thorough screening process, which ensures we employ those truly determined to reset the course of their life. We now have 10 employees that are trying to transition out of homelessness. We've helped them open bank accounts, provided them with financial planning support and now 5 of the 10 have earned enough to get their own apartments and support themselves.
We are now carried in 200+ stores in the US and internationally including Fred Segal, Kitson and Opening Ceremony. In July 2012 we moved into an office in downtown LA where we plan to keep expanding in order to create more employment opportunities.
Now that you know that each of these keys were hand stamped with love, we hope their inspiring stories inspire YOU to not only support our cause with your purchase, but also keep your eyes peeled for the person who's the next stop on that key's journey.