Business and (Community) Service Go Hand in Hand

Business and service go together. A business may have the best product or concept on the planet, but without the service necessary to connect with customers, even the brightest ideas won’t reach their full potential. Same is true for success and service. Traverse City’s leadership landscape is packed with people who felt that because they had received in abundance – in whatever form that may have taken – they were called to give back a full measure of time, talent and treasure.

No one has to look far for news about companies that break rules or cut corners – it fits with the ill-informed narrative held by too many about “greedy” business people who will do almost anything to make a buck. In reality most business owners, managers and employees care deeply about the communities they serve, and many take extraordinary measures (outside of their busy work schedules) to make a positive impact. Nearly every business or social membership organization requires a commitment to such service.

We see this in action every day as we go about our work at the Traverse City Area Chamber. As part of the Chamber Celebration Week happening January 21-25, business, civic and community leaders and their employees and guests will gather for the chamber’s annual Distinguished Service Award presentation. This year our honoree is Tony Anderson, general manager of Cherryland Electric Cooperative and a former chamber board chair.

Tony’s commitment to helping our region’s at-risk children, fueled in part by his own experience growing up in a single-parent home, has raised more than $400,000 for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northwestern Michigan through his Marathon4Kids initiative. Through Marathon4Kids, Tony has committed to run a marathon in all 50 states (number 44 is coming up in March) to raise money for the organization. His efforts have consumed an incredible amount of personal time, commitment and expense – but aren’t really a surprise to anyone who’s fortunate enough to know Tony.

This year, the chamber took a fresh look at its DSA awardees and decided to add a new feature to its Celebration Week this with a day of service to mark the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on January 21. Partnering with United Way of Northwest Michigan, dozens of chamber members and other volunteers will participate in a series of community service initiatives ranging from restocking a pantry for at-risk students to projects supporting youth literacy and assisting the region’s homeless population and local veterans and military families. It will be an important and impactful way to launch a very special week for our organization and the community. It will also fulfill an important component of the chamber’s own 104-year-old mission and commitment to its community.

The chamber’s efforts are just the tip of the iceberg of how the region’s business sector helps our communities on a daily basis. Our partners at Consumers Energy have contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to help local children and families through its support of the 5toONE early childhood development program. DTE spends a like amount on winter heat assistance, and companies like Blue Cross Blue Shield spend similar amounts on youth and community initiatives throughout our region.  The charitable foundations at Munson Healthcare and Northwestern Michigan College (both chamber members) operate numerous programs that help local people from all walks of life.

Small businesses and their employees contribute hundreds of thousands – probably millions – annually to support local organizations like United Way, Goodwill, Father Fred, Salvation Army and scores of others. Many companies “adopt” families over the holidays to ensure a joyful holiday season, support our schools and other community institutions. They fill laundry, diaper, and clothing pantries, or find ways to contribute to most any good cause that comes asking for their help, including donating gifts for the many silent auctions that assist music, theater, sports, science and other priorities for the region.

The holidays are a time for reflection, to give thanks and look ahead. Despite our country’s challenges and disagreements, there’s a lot to be thankful for in the Grand Traverse region, and plenty to be excited about in the coming weeks and months. Be assured that our area’s business sector will continue to find new and impactful ways to move our community forward, and work hard to ensure that no one is left behind.

Doug Luciani is the CEO of TraverseCONNECT, a regional economic development organization that includes the Traverse City Area Chamber of Commerce. Contact him at doug@traverseconnect.org.

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