A different way to measure.
There are many ways to measure the health of a company or an industry. All the usual metrics of profits and losses, business cycles, competition, and employee morale, but there is another one that I think is often overlooked. It is people’s charitableness. And as I look around the country at our chapters, our companies, and our vendors, we measure up very well.
Our chapters hold charity events every year that raise thousands of dollars for those less fortunate and for those who have been harmed by fire. It is an across-the-board effort and everyone chips in. Our manufacturers and suppliers always step up and help; fire departments, which are in the business of helping, find ways to help even more. Contractors who compete against each other every day become givers and join together to show amazing generosity to a worthy cause. And it is not just the generosity of money, it is the giving of perhaps a more important currency – it is the giving of one’s time.
The effort of time it takes to put together a successful charitable event is far more than meets the eye. It is an undertaking that demands hundreds of man hours. The Virginia Chapter of AFSA puts together an annual golf tournament that now raises and gives away $80,000 per year. In differing levels, that effort is repeated throughout the country. Chapter after chapter has golf tournaments and events that support a local charity. Our national vendors contribute not just once nationally but time and again locally; they always answer the call and help out. Our volunteers organize, account, fundraise, buy gifts, cook, donate and clean up. People care and it is heartwarming to see and be a part of something that transcends our normal day to day.
Another important benefit to these events is that they allow for personal interaction, to see old friends and make new ones. In today’s social media world it is very easy to conduct business without ever seeing each other face to face. When we make the effort to see each other in a non-business setting we see each other in a different light. We all have assumptions and perceptions of each other that are often at odds with the truth, so perhaps we can come away with a better understanding and we all stand to gain. So, it turns out giving is getting and it’s so right on many levels.
We may not be the most glamorous industry but we sure are a good one, filled with amazing people who quietly go about their days and make a positive difference. When you pull into the parking lot at one of these events you will see a lot of work trucks and work vans. You will see people who aren’t afraid of sweat and work, people who are willing to share themselves, their time and their money.
Such things speak to the character of our people, our companies and our industry, and we all have much to be proud of.
Michael F. Meehan is the Chairman of the AFSA Board of Directors.