Shutting down an organization for an afternoon so that 150 employees can walk to a memorial service for the organization’
But Bob Hentzen was no ordinary leader.
Hentzen, who died unexpectedly Oct. 8 in Guatemala after a brief illness, helped start CFCA in 1981 with a Christmas card list of potential supporters. The sponsorship program he co-founded grew into the largest nonprofit in Kansas, delivering more than $1 billion in direct aid over the years to families living in poverty in 21 developing countries.
Hentzen spent the majority of his time with the people CFCA serves in some of the poorest communities in the world. He led hundreds of trips for American sponsors to visit the children and elderly people they support.
In 1996, Hentzen set out from CFCA headquarters in Kansas City, Kan., and walked 4,000 miles to his new home base in Guatemala. From there, he led a movement that emphasized dignity for people living in poverty and the somewhat radical idea that people living on the margins of society could solve their own problems. They just needed a small amount of money, education and encouragement.
In 2011, Hentzen completed a second walk from Guatemala to Chile, spanning 18 months and covering nearly 8,000 miles. He said he walked to show the poor, “You are not alone.”
“We should be our best for the poor. They deserve it,” Hentzen said.
Hentzen’s death led to a massive outpouring of love and respect throughout Latin America, India, the Philippines and Africa, all areas of the world where CFCA has projects.
Tens of thousands filled the streets of Guatemala to follow his casket. CFCA projects in other countries held church services, tribal ceremonies and cultural activities in his honor, and thousands of families and staff members attended.
By those standards, a simple walk to a Kansas City church may not be elaborate.
But his colleagues (he would never have referred to the staff as employees) will honor him as best they can.
A memorial Mass for Hentzen will be at 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Redemptorist Church, 3333 Broadway Blvd., Kansas City, Mo. The CFCA staff will begin walking to the church at noon from the organization’