Hometown Heroes -- Reaching Out, From WithinFebruary 2009 By Cheryl Adams
And, there are some amongst us who seem “wired” to help others. They are dedicated to a cause greater than their own life’s aspirations. They believe in contributing to the bigger picture, society as a whole.
These helpers, these humanitarians, donate their time, effort, money and/or services to assist those who are less fortunate, particularly those who are in dire need. Sometimes a little help goes a long way, and sometimes that help can be life-changing—or life-saving.
We all know people like this. And, we are all blessed (or, at least, inspired) by their good deeds.
Here are the inspirational stories of a few humanitarian printers, who are truly Hometown Heroes.
The Cherry Hill section of Baltimore is known for its mean streets. It is one of the highest crime neighborhoods in the city. Which is why Mayor Sheila Dixon expanded Baltimore’s “Operation Safe Streets” to this area that has more than its share of violence, homicides and shootings. The program involves hiring ex-offenders to reach out to troubled youth and intervene in disputes before they become violent.
Enter Jack Weber, president of Uptown Press, who knows a lot about working with Baltimore organizations that assist soon-to-be-released prisoners, as well as ex-convicts. Not only is Weber involved with Operation Safe Streets, but his real fervor is supporting the Occupational Skills Training Center (OSTC) at the Maryland House of Corrections, where inmates who are about to be released are given trade skills and prepared for life after prison.
As one of the leading and longest-serving supporters of the program, Weber has hired about 40 ex-offenders (over his 20-year involvement with the organization) to work at his Baltimore-based printing company. He believes in “a God of second chances” and admits that he gets a lot of personal satisfaction helping young men and women just released from prison to get back on their feet. Providing them with a job is one way he knows he can make a huge, positive impact on their lives.
Personally hand-picking and interviewing the applicants, Weber makes his selections based on qualifications that include “work skills, ability to communicate, good attitude and friendliness, and an eagerness to succeed or get back into life.”
Considering the printing industry is experiencing a labor shortage, Weber says other printers could benefit from hiring ex-offenders, who are usually quite competent working with machinery. “Other skills they bring are enthusiasm and gratitude to work, willingness to follow work orders and a sense of satisfaction of giving back to employers/owners.”
Another charity that holds a very special place in Weber’s heart is Acts 4 Youth (A4Y). This program aims to reduce neighborhood violence by mentoring at-risk kids. As a dedicated advocate of A4Y, Weber donates his time and service to create unique opportunities in the lives of troubled young boys—many of whom are raised by single mothers.
With the help of people like Weber, Acts 4 Youth offers educational, recreational and mentoring activities that can turn their lives around during a crucial stage in their development—and help keep them off the streets, in school and on the right track to a better life. “And, Acts 4 Youth provides opportunities for these youths to see black male leaders, foremen and managers, and owners of businesses,” he adds.
“It is within my power to give, and my choice is to give back,” Weber maintains. “I see my print operation as an opportunity to connect with others that need another chance to succeed.”
Water—The Source of Life
While you’re chugging back that bottle of cold, spring water, consider these facts: The need for clean water now affects one in six worldwide. Currently, 1.1 billion people on the planet lack access to clean, safe drinking water. More than 4,500 children die each day from diseases caused by a lack of safe drinking water and proper sanitation. In sub-Saharan Africa, a baby’s chance of dying from diarrhea is almost 52 times greater than in the United States. Diseases like diarrhea are caused by drinking contaminated water and kill more than 2.2 million people each year—the equivalent of 20 jumbo jets crashing every day.
Shocking statistics to be sure. But, there is an organization in New York City that is working hard to reverse this tragedy. Charity: water, a non-profit group launched in 2006, has raised about $5 million and has funded 633 water projects in 12 developing countries worldwide, providing more than 250,000 people access to clean water.
Charity: water partners with local organizations to fund freshwater wells and other water solutions. For example, a hand-dug well in Liberia can cost $4,000, while deep wells in Kenya can cost up to $40,000.
The charity also works to raise awareness of the water crisis through events, fund-raising exhibitions and other public awareness campaigns.
Enter Big Apple-based Graphic Systems Group (GSG), a leading production agency with clients like Elizabeth Arden, Maybelline, Revlon and Estée Lauder. GSG teamed up with Saks Fifth Avenue and printed all of its promotional and display materials, during Saks’ six-store fund-raising event—selling charity: water bracelets—which raised more than $500,000 that will benefit freshwater projects in Central America, India and Africa.
Scott Harrison, charity: water’s president and founder, notes that GSG has been a dear friend by continuously supporting the organization with creative direction, imaginative displays and thought-provoking imagery.
“GSG has had the privilege to support charity: water,” says Ken Madsen, GSG president. “Working together with their dedicated team, we’ve been able to reach out to hundreds of thousands who have graciously supported the worldwide cause for clean water. Together, we have promoted events in New York, Miami, Houston, Aspen, Los Angeles and even Paris.”
Of the monies raised, 100 percent goes directly to the cause, Madsen emphasizes, noting that even administrative costs are paid through gifts from private donors.
“To date, charity: water has implemented more than 600 water projects,” Madsen continues. “Each aims to develop spring-protected wells by working with local officials and labor forces. It’s in this way that communities become involved and take ownership of each project.”
Children’s Health, Welfare
Matt Doran is the fifth generation owner of York, PA-based Anstadt Printing. Since taking over as president in 2004, sales have doubled to more than $5 million.
While he’s pleased with his professional accomplishments, Doran is especially proud of his personal achievements—helping those who cannot help themselves, namely the thousands of children in his surrounding community who do not have healthcare insurance.
After coaching youth football, being active in his church, taking on a leadership role with the National MS Society and being a board member of Stepping Stones Counseling and Rehab Services, Doran found that his true passion is working with the York Health Foundation/Kids First Campaign, which raises money for healthcare services for uninsured children in York County.
Doran was co-chair in 2007 and chairman in 2008. (In 2005, he was so dedicated to the cause that he earned the “Rookie of the Year” award for raising the most money as a new committee member.)
But, 2008 turned out to be the year of Doran’s best fund-raising efforts yet. In a special fund-raising drive last fall, Doran helped collect approximately $250,000 for his beloved charity.
“The York Health Foundation/Kids First Campaign is an organization that I have personally become heavily involved in over the past several years,” he explains, noting that organization’s fall fund-raiser provided money for child healthcare initiatives, such as expansion of the Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at York Hospital.
“From a big picture perspective, corporate social responsibility is something that has been important to our company throughout our 130-year history as a commercial printer,” Doran says. “There is a real sense of both personal and professional accomplishment achieved through the donation of my time and our company’s services to community organizations that benefit worthwhile causes.”
The culture at Anstadt promotes individuals to give their time and efforts to the community and philanthropic causes.
“We have a staff of people who donate their time as coaches to youth sports teams. We have volunteer firefighters, pet shelter volunteers, church leaders and other charity volunteers,” Doran concludes. “We are a family business that cares greatly for our employees, our customers and our community.” PI