travelanthropist Loyal Mehnert is a nominee for a 2011 Classy
each year, Loyal Mehnert, 34, will veto a resort-style vacation in
favor of a volunteer project.
travelanthropist, heís concerned with the philanthropy of travel. So
far heís been to 24 countries on five continents. Sponsorships for
his Facebook page Ė which has close to 5,000 fans Ė and fees for
hiking and service trips he leads to far-flung places like Vietnam,
Scotland, the Middle East, South America and England, constitute his
has an adventure component to it," the East Side resident says,
"and you have to travel light and travel smart." The hardest
part, he says, is about not knowing where youíll be next.
Last year People
for the Ethical Treatment of Animals named him Sexiest Vegetarian. Heís
followed a meat-free diet for 10 years and is pretty sure his
girlfriend nominated him. In 2009, he won a People Magazineís
All-Stars Among Us award and represented the Milwaukee Brewers at the
All Star Game in St. Louis. Heís currently a nominee for a 2011
Classy Award (Young Nonprofit Leader of the Year), which he calls
"the Oscars of philanthropy." If he wins, heíll donate the
cash prize to Habitat for Humanity.
After all, that
organization led him down this road. In 2007, employed by Habitat as a
national field-media spokesperson and after a decade spent in
marketing and advertising, he got fed up with it all. "Like a lot
of people I was invested in things that really werenít important ó
wearing fancy clothes and buying a nice car," he says. Seeing
poor communities in his own country opened his eyes up to
possibilities to help others. Soon he was leading fundraising trips
for Habitat all over the world, from the Mississippi Gulf Coast to
Gambia. He currently sits on the nonprofitís development committee.
Talk to Mehnert
long enough and tales of adventurous, even dangerous, travel
eventually spill out of him, including the time he escaped a bear
attack on the Appalachian Trail or had guns drawn on him in West
So far this year
heís been to Haiti twice ó a 10-day trip in August and two weeks
in November. For the August trip, as part of the first group of
Habitat volunteers in that country since the January 2010 earthquake,
he hiked and blogged about his adventures while chatting with locals
about creating a sustainable eco-tourism community and laying the
ground for future Habitat trips.
When looking for
a volunteer opportunity, he suggests picking a cause that hits close
to home. For him thatís Habitat for Humanity. "I grew up in
poverty housing," the Chicago native says. "When I think
about growing up with roaches or mice in my house I donít want any
other kids to go through that."
have to trek to Africa," he says. "There are things locally
that you can do. Donít forget afternoon activities. If you do it
over a year it all adds up."