Successful entrepreneurs always find a way to help the less fortunate

Kevin GoodmanBy guest blogger, Kevin J. Goodman, managing director, partner with BlueBridge Networks and a United Way of Greater Cleveland donor and volunteer.

I decided that as a corporate citizen I could come up with a strategy that would align myself and our company’s time, talent, and treasure with the Missions of the United Way – Education, Income, and Health – as a way to help move the needle and eradicate poverty and improve the overall quality of life in our region. I was moved by my personal experiences and participation with the United Way of Greater Cleveland over time. I decided to be #AllIn, as we like to say in Cleveland, and engage in every way in terms of time, talent, and treasure.

“There’s a reason people use the phrase ‘corporate citizen,’” Bill Kitson, the president and CEO of the United Way of Greater Cleveland, says. “It’s because we know that behind the layers of legal, financial, and regulatory complications, corporations are simply people working toward similar goals. The spirit of teamwork and responsibility is intrinsic to being a citizen in a community and is arguably even more important to businesses. There is a moral imperative to give back and to contribute to the community. The household names we associate with great success are often the businesses that employ social responsibility methods.”

The national media frequently rank Cleveland and Northeast Ohio at or near the top of various notable lists. Increasingly some of those lists illuminate glaring disparities about our area. The ones that keep coming up seemingly in the negative are centered on our poverty level. Certainly pockets of our metropolitan areas are more than 30 percent comprised of residents living at or below poverty levels. Each day one in five children faces hunger; one in six is hungry as you read this. It is for this very reason I thought long and hard about how I could move the needle in our region around poverty and improving the overall quality of life.

Rather than beginning our company’s own philanthropic arm, we choose to wrap our efforts around institutions and organizations that were already making measureable change. The desire to be a change agent and move the needle is statistically enhanced when we work smarter and not necessarily harder. We can pool our collective community resources and leverage and facilitate change agency in collaboration.

The goals of my corporate citizenry are:

  1. Give voice to those in situations of poverty
  2. Provide education opportunities to effect change
  3. Support activities like workforce development, research, recreation and leisure, and recovery that improve the quality of life in our region.

It is not my intent to argue the merits of the old adage about feeding a person vs. teaching one to fish so they can feed themselves. First things first — feed, clothe, and shelter those who need it and teach, inspire, nurture, mentor, educate, share, leverage, and train. The pathway out of poverty is to continue to improve and make available viable sustainable opportunities for the workforce, industry, and commerce. The Teach One to Fish vs. Feed Them when and where they may require is a necessary combined mentality to help eradicate poverty and increase the chances of prosperity.

It is important for a company, no matter its size, to encourage all of its employees to volunteer as a way of supporting the community. We are becoming more and more involved in the area of contributions to the community by seeking out institutions we can support.

Continued in Part Two on Wednesday, October 14, 2015.

Kevin Goodman is the managing director, partner with BlueBridge Networks, a downtown Cleveland-headquartered data-center business. He can be reached at (216) 367-7580, kjg@bbnllc.com, kevinjgoodman.com, and bluebridgenetworks.com.

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