I was recently in New York City and, upon checking into my hotel, the receptionist gave me an unusually warm greeting. “The mayor of Dallas was just here speaking on domestic violence against women,” she said.
I told her yes, that Mayor Mike Rawlings is championing the cause of preventing domestic abuse. She commented that many people she knew in New York thought it was interesting and odd that a politician from Texas was so passionate about preventing domestic violence against women.
Interesting thought, but with Gov. Rick Perry being the most recent Texan in the national spotlight, I could see why our state is not readily aligned with the plight of women and women’s rights.
The reality is that Mayor Rawlings motives appear genuine. He is using his position and time to make a difference for people in circumstances that truly need help. My experience in New York allowed me to be very proud of our mayor. If indeed his political aspirations are greater than being Dallas’s mayor, then I am in, but … I digress.
This blog is not meant to be a Rawlings love fest or a slighting of Gov. Perry. Instead, the goal of this post is to encourage every company to choose a cause that matters and support it with more than just money.
Two years ago during the holiday season my wife Temple and I were looking at once again hosting the company Christmas party. Coming out of the recession things seemed different, and a Christmas party simply felt wasteful. We looked at each other and asked, “What can we do differently?”
Our partners at UCR agreed. I truly don’t know why, but we thought of Paige Flink and the Family Place. We thought about the families and the women there who had suffered from domestic abuse. An idea began to germinate; we came up with reindeer team names, our people began working together to support families at the Genesis Shelter and the Family Place. The teams studied the Christmas lists of 10 families, and then took a day to shop together, then wrap and deliver the presents.
The first year our efforts were contained to Dallas. Last year, all UCR cities participated. Our employees spent money and time together, buying gifts for families that are victims of domestic abuse. The point is, rather than host a party, we all worked together to help others. It also has helped us build camaraderie for a common cause.
When UCR was starting out and growing, one of my former associates, who today is a competitor and a friend, Tim Hughes of Falcon, suggested that we find ways to give back to the community. At the time I thought it was tough enough to find resources to make payroll and give to my family. Back then, I was so self-absorbed that other than giving minimally to various charities, I didn’t know where to start.
Through the years we have supported many causes and gave money to many charities. But looking back, we had no passion in our giving. Never did we collectively truly give of our time. Then, five years ago that all changed.
Our UCR team discovered a meaningful mission that combined our passions: retail, art, and education. Thus Retail as Art was born. It’s a program that reaches hundreds of high school students and introduces them to the world of retailing and the visual arts. It encourages participation by high school students and ultimately exposes these young people to professional photography, retail and marketing executives and, of course, related careers.
Culminating with a juried photography exhibition at Paul Morgan’s Three Three Three First Avenue, students, parent, teachers, sponsors, art patrons, and buyers come to together to applaud and honor the scholarship winners.
As we approach our fifth year, the Retail as Art program is making a difference. And we have discovered our passion for giving back to the community. We invite you to join us by supporting this important effort and to share in our joy as we truly make a difference in some very deserving students’ lives.
Mostly, though, I want to encourage friends, colleagues, and the business community at large to not wait as we did for years, but to pick a cause and go for it today. The money, time, and effort spent in this way will greatly magnify the rewards—for the givers and recipients alike.
Click here for information about donating to Retail as Art. For an invitation to our gallery opening on May 8 at Three Three Three First Avenue, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mickey Ashmore is president of United Commercial Realty. Contact him at email@example.com.