It’s important for every business to have a role in their respective community. Today, we speak with Dominique Brooks, co-owner of E.E. Ward Moving and Storage, the oldest African-American business in the country about this. Perhaps you can glean some insight and apply it to your own organization.
Why is community involvement so important?
It shows care and commitment internally and externally. Employees feel a greater sense of pride when they know their place of employment has social awareness.
How can leaders develop a community involvement program if they don’t already have one?
Many times it is best to identify a cause that individuals are passionate about. When a majority buy-in of the social cause occurs, it makes the community giveback easier.
Why does it matter for YOUR organization to engage with the community?
E.E. Ward was founded on the principles of giving back. Eldon Ward, who ran the company for 50 years, was dedicated to his community through working with nonprofit organizations such as Columbus Foundation, United Way and YMCA boards.
He had a phrase: “Do what’s right, come what may.” Our team has embraced this sentiment in the way we treat our customers and community. Giving back has always mattered to E.E.Ward because the community has always been our foundation for over a century. Why? Because we employ from our communities, we have customers in our communities and we service our communities. We have been able to sustain going on 138 years because we have made giving back to our communities and investment in people our priority.
How does community engagement impact your business’ performance and growth?
A: E.E. Ward’s dedication to the community has been regularly recognized and appreciated by residents of central Ohio.
Our commitment to community engagement helps to add greater purpose for all the efforts that we put forth as a company on a daily basis. We want our team to know that we appreciate their efforts of hard work and dedication go beyond the balance sheet. When your team knows that the company has an awareness of community and a dedication to help others it fosters a sense of pride that helps fuel a positive culture.
What challenges do leaders sometimes face in getting involved with their communities and how did E.E. Ward overcome those?
Community involvement is typically good for all, but it is not always a road easily traveled. Many business leaders feel a calling to help and support those who have supported the company, but at times there is a limit to the amount of resources a business leader can commit to such efforts.
It’s important for businesses leaders to know their contributions of time, energy and resources make a difference in specific areas of need, although they may not be able to solve all of their community’s challenges at once.
At E.E. Ward, we have made an attempt to support focused and specific initiatives to help our community. This approach allows us to make an impact on these targeted areas of need and our efforts are realized and appreciated.
Can you describe a specific partnership, collaboration, initiative (etc.) that showcases your commitment to the community?
Our year-long fundraiser Laps for Learning, which we partner with YMCA to accomplish, is a swim-a-thon hosted by our organization to fund swim lessons and water safety classes for children in underprivileged areas in Columbus.
Ohio’s youth drownings increase 119 percent during the summer months, and it is vital to help reduce this number. We are very aware of the needs of the communities we serve and always try to help with causes when possible. During this past holiday season, we were able to support two organizations with delivery services. We partnered with a dental program KidSmiles and the hockey team Lady Blue Jackets in delivering 6,500 dental hygiene care bags to vulnerable children that the Salvation Army serves.
We were glad to help make this holidays season a happier and healthier time for those children in need. We also partner with Childhood League, an organization that helps children gain developmental skills in early stages of life and provide support to their families. We also commit days to pick up furniture and appliances from donors and delivering them to families in need. Furthermore, we work with the Gary Sinise Foundation’s Rise Program, which assists wounded service members with adaptive housing. On top of that, we also partner with In Christy’s Shoes, and their mission is to empower women.
The world is full of different leaders, companies, employees and organizations that span different industries and serve different communities. But we all have neighbors who are less fortunate. And as the leader of an organization, you can work with your employees to serve those who could use a helping hand. To know who needs assistance, you only need look around you. Opportunities will appear.