Donald Fry: Recognizing selfless acts of community service in the private sector

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By Donald C. Fry

Last Monday, on the day before her inauguration, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake took two hours in the middle of a busy day to honor major sources of giving in the city – its businesses and the private-sector owners, managers and employees for whom community service is fundamental to their company culture.

Rawlings-Blake presented 13 businesses with 2011 Mayor’s Business Recognition Awards for commitment to community and dedication to improving the quality of life in Baltimore City. The annual awards are presented by the Mayor’s Office, the Greater Baltimore Committee and the Baltimore Development Corporation.

The awards recognize companies that go above and beyond their normal business operations to contribute time and resources to civic projects ranging in purpose from helping many in our community lift themselves up from their worst days to enabling the city’s young people to achieve education success and to expand their career options.

“These are businesses who say that it’s not enough to be successful and to make a profit,” the Mayor said.

“Thank you for standing up to do more, especially when we need it most, in these tough times,” she said to winners during the awards ceremony at the Hyatt Regency Baltimore.

This year’s awards went to large companies such as Constellation Energy – which gives millions annually to community service projects and whose employees engage in numerous civic initiatives in Baltimore and around the state – and to smaller businesses such as Dunlop & Sons Roofing, which draws most of its employees from the ranks of ex-offenders, offering them gainful employment and training in “soft skills” and good work habits.

There is Heery International, an architectural and engineering firm whose Baltimore employees volunteer to clean windows, replace blinds, fix lights and water lines and repair furniture at the Susanna Wesley House, a transitional housing facility for women in need and their children.

For two decades, Northrop Grumman and its employees have supported Baltimore City Public Schools by helping fold Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) into student lesson plans and mentoring more than 100 students from 20 different high schools – just one of the firm’s projects that has contributed to an increase in the number of high school graduates that are prepared to pursue college degrees in STEM subjects.

Two of this year’s award winners – SC&H Group LLC, a CPA and management consulting firm, and Arris, a Design Studio, Inc., an interior architecture and design consulting firm – donate volunteer time, resources, and funding to Baltimore Station, an organization that offers men, mostly veterans, help in escaping poverty, substance abuse and homelessness. SC&H’s information technology team improved Baltimore Station’s computer network. Others cooked dinners and helped veterans develop job skills. Meanwhile, employees of Arris, a Design Studio have raised more than $42,000 by conducting fundraising art auctions to support the organization’s mission.

Other winners of the 2011 Mayor’s Business Recognition Awards are:

BB&T, for its role as lead sponsor of the Festival of Trees to benefit Kennedy Krieger Institute, which improves the lives of children with developmental disabilities. In 2010, the festival’s proceeds exceeded $1 million for the first time. More than 65 bank employees volunteered to participate in planning, decorating, and fundraising for the event, which has raised more than $14 million over 20 years.

Kaydon Ring & Seal, for its support of Paul’s Place, which serves the needy and improves the quality of life in the Washington Village-Pigtown community. Its efforts include toy and clothing drives, and an annual golf outing that has raised more than $10,000 in each of the past two years. The company – which is the engineering and manufacturing source of rings and seals for the hydrocarbon processing, aircraft, and diesel locomotive industries – matches the golf outing proceeds contributed to Paul’s Place.

KPMG LLP, for employee volunteer work supporting numerous organizations, including the Maryland Food Bank, Catholic Charities, Our Daily Bread, Red House Run Elementary School and John Eager Howard Recreation Center. In the days leading up to the 10th anniversary of 9/11, volunteers from the audit, tax and advisory services firm worked up to four hours a day sorting goods and food boxes, serving food to the needy, reading to 2nd graders about the American Flag, and organizing recreational activities.

McGladrey, for its Community Service Initiative, which promotes employee-driven volunteerism and donates office time for employee days of service. The work of volunteers from the Baltimore office of the assurance, tax and consulting firm have benefited the Maryland Food Bank, Living Classrooms, the Salvation Army and numerous other community and non-profit organizations.

PricewaterhouseCoopers, for community service that includes its work to aid Benjamin Franklin High School’s turnaround from high truancy, low attendance and low test scores to a more productive and effective education experience. During the past year, volunteers from the Baltimore division of the audit and assurance, consulting and tax services firm devoted more than 2,000 hours to community service that also benefited the Maryland Zoo, Port Discovery Children’s Museum, and Operation Hope, and other organizations.

Southern Management Corporation, for its annual Spruce Up Our Schools Program that encourages employees of the residential property management firm to volunteer to help a selected city public school’s students, staff and faculty transform it into a warm and welcoming environment. This year, volunteers painted, power washed, renovated, mulched, planted, hung signs and installed carpet at the city’s Academy for College and Career Exploration.

Wells Fargo Bank, for its partnership with the Robert C. Marshall Recreation Center and the adjoining Judy Center at Furman L. Templeton Charter School, both of which provide after-school activities and child care resources for the neighborhood. Baltimore-based volunteers reflected Wells Fargo’s corporate dedication to revitalizing local neighborhoods by helping to renovate and make the center and school safe, welcoming environments. Volunteers have also taught financial literacy to more than 1,200 city teens and young adults.

Monday’s award winners represent thousands more businesses in the city and the region that make giving back to the communities a part of the fabric of their companies.

Such companies “believe that they are part of something much bigger,” said Mayor Rawlings-Blake. “They have shown a willingness to contribute to a greater cause – something greater than themselves.”

In my experience, when you talk to these volunteers, you rarely hear them discuss the tremendous amount of work that went into the project. Instead, they almost always tell you that, although the work was intended to benefit others, they got an incredible amount of personal satisfaction from it.

Pausing to recognize the community spirit that exists in the private sector serves to reinforce our appreciation for a primary tenet of the American way of business and life: selfless giving is a high-value exercise that benefits everyone.

Donald C. Fry is president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee. He is a regular contributor to Center Maryland.

Recent Center Maryland columns by Donald C. Fry:

Deadline approaches for businesses to suggest regulations to change or eliminate

Minority and women entrepreneurs provide lessons in seizing opportunity

Aberdeen Proving Ground: Maryland’s newest economic powerhouse

Baltimore region endures recession losses, but drives state’s modest jobs comeback

State web site seeks business feedback on regulations

Job-creation impact of transportation gets lawmakers’ attention

Sluggish growth forecast for Maryland not a recession, but is it ‘okay?’

Mobility: the ultimate jobs issue

Tech jobs are here, more are coming, but can we fill them?

Breaking free of transportation funding limbo in D.C. and Annapolis

The Grand Prix’s lessons

Maryland jobs data show July gains, sobering long-term reality

Quake serves as reminder about transportation

Maryland funding for DBED lags behind competing states

Opportunity for Baltimore looms from Panama
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Donald C. Fry has been the president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee (GBC), the central Maryland region's most prominent organization of business and civic leaders, since November 2002.

Under Don’s leadership, the GBC is recognized as a knowledgeable and highly credible business voice in the Baltimore region, Annapolis and Washington, D.C. on policy issues and competitive challenges facing Maryland. Its mission is to apply private-sector leadership to strengthening the business climate and quality of life in the region and state.

Fry served as GBC executive vice president from 1999 to 2002. From 1980 to 1999 Fry was engaged in a private law practice in Harford County. During this time he also served in the Maryland General Assembly. He is one of only a handful of legislators to have served on each of the major budget committees of the General Assembly.

Serving in the Senate of Maryland from 1997 to 1998, Fry was a member of the Budget and Taxation Committee. As a member of the House of Delegates from 1991 to 1997 Fry served on the Ways and Means Committee and on the Appropriations Committee.

Fry is a 1979 graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law. He earned a B.S. in political science from Frostburg State College.