This story begins with a New York hotel room key. Actress and singer/songwriter, Caitlin Crosby, started wearing the hotel key as a necklace while on tour and had the idea to start engraving old, used keys with inspirational words. Realizing that, in a way, we are all like these keys – unique, flawed, scarred, and sometimes discarded by others – she wanted these keys to have their purpose renewed over and over again.
After meeting a couple who were living on streets in Hollywood, CA, Caitlin Crosby started paying them to engrave keys and make jewelry for this positive Pay It Forward movement. Caitlin decided she would employ the homeless to make the keys; and Rob and Cera agreed to be her first business partners. Rob and Cera would make the keys that Caitlin would then sell at her shows. The couple began saving money from the work. They saved enough to stay in a motel and then eventually saved up enough to get their own apartment.
After the success of Rob and Cera, Caitlin hired ten more people trying to transition out of homelessness, five of whom have gotten completely off the streets. One couple, Jeff and Norma, met while engraving keys, fell in love, got engaged and got an apartment together—all because of The Giving Keys. To date, The Giving Keys has employed 28 people transitioning out of homelessness and our keys are sold in over 2,000 stores throughout the world.
A person purchases a key engraved with a word they feel may be lacking in their life. Faith. Hope. Courage. Fight. Dream. They wear the key, embrace the message, and when the moment has come that someone else seems to need the word more, they pass the key forward. And then they go back to The Giving Keys site and tell their story.
The Giving Keys began receiving stories from people who’d given keys and people who’d received keys. Keys have circulated through all different walks of life from people in chemotherapy wards fighting cancer to college students setting out on their own for the first time. But the business, which began out of complete happenstance, has evolved into something bigger than its founder could have ever even imagined.