Neil Kiekhofer, co-owner of Front Room Photography in Milwaukee, has dedicated nearly half of his life to photography services, and nearly all of his life to giving back to the community he calls home.
“I love Milwaukee. I am married, and I have twin daughters, and I want them to love Milwaukee as much as I do. It’s about more than the great festivals though; it’s about us taking care of our community and our fellow community members.”
Kiekhofer regularly donates his time and talent to area nonprofit organizations and has also organized Charity Days at Front Room Photography, designed to support local organizations throughout the year.
Kiekhofer and his family are committed to several causes in the community, including Meta House, American Red Cross, Pathfinders Milwaukee, Multiple Sclerosis Society, the Milwaukee Art Museum, United Way and others, he said.
“There are so many great organizations in this community, and I knew I didn’t have the time or the money to give back to all of them,” Kiekhofer said. “Serendipitously, I was connected with the United Way of Greater Milwaukee and the great group of people there doing such passionate work. Working with United Way has given me the opportunity to support my whole community through several organizations.”
He recently earned a United Way Philanthropic 5 Award for his work with the organization and others throughout southeastern Wisconsin.
His nomination called him “a man of compassion…through his creative lens, he’s able to tell beautiful stories of people making a difference across the community.”
Kiekhofer and other members of Front Room Photography regularly provide complimentary photo services for local organizations.
He realized early on that he may never be able to make a $1 million cash gift to any organization, but he didn’t let that deter him from giving back, he said.
“I took a look at our company and thought hard about what we could do to give back,” he said.
He settled on Charity Days, a way for people to support organizations in the community by allowing them to make cash donations to specific organizations, with the company matching those donations in services. He hopes to expand Charity Days and inspire other companies in the Milwaukee community to give back in similar ways.
Kiekhofer’s work is a reflection of the culture at the company, he said. The entire staff regularly gives of their time and talent, and does so without wondering if they are going to get paid.
“Our employees really do my heart a lot of good,” he said. “Everyone needs to pay bills, but they are all very willing to give.”
Front Room Photography has formalized Charity Days and has been hosting it for the past four years. In 2016, the company hopes to be able to offer paid time off to do community work, Kiekhofer said.
“The overall mission of United Way is ‘Live United,’ and I think that extends beyond just their organization,” he said. “It’s a way of life. It’s not just a one-time thing. It’s your actions, your thoughts and your efforts as a community.”