Making a difference Featured

9:32am EDT July 22, 2002

In October, computer maker Hewlett-Packard announced it would set aside $1 billion in products and services next year to help bring technology to the poorest of the poor.

Odds are, you didn't hear about this story. Most major media sources glossed over the news to discuss other, more grim, business issues.

It seems as though bad news is the bulk of what's reported these days. I can't turn on the television without being bombarded with news about some company's major failings or, in the case of many dot-coms, an organization's demise.

As a former daily business-news reporter, I won't argue that those stories have their place -- where else would that information come from? But, as adept as they are at the negative, there's a noticeable void of coverage detailing the good deeds business owners and their employees do. And that's a serious problem.

For those who missed it, HP's program is designed to bring Internet access to rural areas in developing countries, including China, Africa and South America. It has located partners in village communities and will connect people with basic online services to help bring these groups into the World Wide Web and expand their economic opportunities.

Not all companies have HP's resources, but every business owner, manager or employee can make a difference by getting involved with local community causes. A desire to underscore their contributions is one reason SBN, along with Medical Mutual of Ohio, developed the Pillar Award for Community Service.

This month, 11 Northeast Ohio companies are being honored for their commitment to giving back to the communities that support them. This is no small feat. The leaders and employees have leveraged manpower, funds, expertise and intellectual capital to help make their communities a better place to live.

Take, for example, Cuyahoga Falls-based Main Street Gourmet. In 1992, Co-CEO Steven Marks partnered with Akron General Hospital's Women's Health and Cancer Center to found "Muffins for Mammograms." Every October, during National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, baked goods are sold to raise money for mammograms for hundreds of women who otherwise would not be able to afford them.

Or witness the case of The MinuteMen Group, which is part of the governing body of the Hunger Network of Greater Cleveland. MinuteMen helps provide more than 500 turkeys to area hunger centers to feed residents not only during the holiday season, but throughout the year. Employees and management at the Cleveland-based staffing and payroll company also donate time, money and effort to aid inner city residents make the transition from welfare to work.

This year's winners exemplify the art of community giving, and I invite you to read each of their stories. Perhaps you'll find an idea or two that you may be able to integrate into your own business. Or, their stories of corporate responsibility just may be the spark of inspiration you need to get your own program started.

Either way, we hope to honor your company next year as a pillar of the community. Dustin Klein (dsklein@sbnnet.com) is editor of SBN.