It takes a village
By Billy Singleton/ Chilton Chamber President
Although the adage “It takes a village” is most frequently used to describe the importance of creating a proper environment to mentor children, the same words can be applied to the need to create a proper environment for the growth and development of a community.
Like children, communities depend on mentors to provide the support, guidance and vision necessary to grow and develop into a contributing member of society.
One of the most effective means of creating an environment to improve quality of life and economic prosperity within a community is the civic involvement of local business and industry. Because of their close relationships and frequent interactions with customers and residents, local business owners and employees occupy a unique position to influence the growth and development of their communities.
However, meeting the retail needs of the community is only one aspect of this relationship. Investing in the community through civic involvement is an equally important consideration that not only benefits residents but makes good business sense as well. A recent study produced by Boston College indicates that businesses that elect to invest in community outreach by providing financial and other support to local charities and community programs are more likely to retain employees than those businesses that do not participate in similar programs. Significantly, the study also indicates that employee groups that volunteer to participate in community programs tend to build stronger work relationships that increase production and overall job satisfaction.
Numerous opportunities exist for local business and industry to become involved in civic outreach within the community. One of the most effective is the development of volunteer programs for employees. For many, time to volunteer to assist in community efforts is extremely limited. One option for employers to promote and support volunteerism is to allow discretionary time at work for employees to participate. A recent study suggests that individual volunteers are worth an average of $24.14 per hour, making this a significant business contribution to the community.
Another effective way to create the village that provides support for residents and creates an effective environment for the future growth and development of the community relates to donations of products and services. Although financial donations remain critical to the operation of charitable organizations, community involvement becomes more powerful when a firm donates more than funding. Businesses that can contribute unique or specialized services or products make a huge impact on the communities they serve.
Frequently, the biggest challenge to participating in community outreach activities is not knowing which charity or cause to support. Fortunately, employees can often provide the answer. Involving employees in selecting specific community outreach programs not only increases their sense of belonging but also increases their enthusiasm and participation.
A true community is not just about being geographically close to someone. It is about feeling connected to our neighbors and responsible for our residents. In working to create the village that will establish the vision and the foundation for our future, it is important to consider the value of volunteers. As author and lecturer Sherry Anderson reminds us, “Volunteers do not get paid; not because they are worthless, but because they are priceless!”