Don Fry Commentary: Thanks to these generous businesses

In less than a week, millions will travel near and far to celebrate one of the truly great American traditions, Thanksgiving. But there are many who do not have the financial or social resources to celebrate the holiday with a wonderful Thanksgiving meal. In fact, experts tells us that one in nine Marylanders is “food insecure,” meaning they are unsure where their next meals will come from exactly.

However, Centerplate, which provides food and beverage services at large venues such as the Baltimore Convention Center and the National Aquarium, will ensure that many in Baltimore City won’t go hungry. The company is stepping up again to provide food donations to ensure that an estimated 3,500 needy citizens can partake of a healthy and satisfying meal to be provided at the Convention Center the day before Thanksgiving this year.

Centerplate’s generosity to the community extends beyond assisting with the Thanksgiving meal. The company also donates food, volunteer time and other gifts to Ronald McDonald House in Baltimore, the Maryland Food Bank, BARCS — a local animal rescue organization — and others.

This deep commitment to the local community and social responsibility is a prime reason Centerplate has been chosen by the Greater Baltimore Committee and the Baltimore Development Corporation to be honored at the Annual Mayor’s Business Recognition Awards this year.

The awards recognize businesses that have demonstrated significant corporate leadership and service to improve the quality of life of residents in Baltimore and are outside the regular mission or day-to-day work or activities of the business.

Other organizations that will be recognized this year at the Dec. 12 awards events are: AECOM, B&O Railroad Museum, CannonDesign, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, Every Kid Can Cook, Hilton Baltimore Inner Harbor, Howard Bank, Kaiser Permanente, Morgan Stanley, University of Maryland Medical Center and WBAL NewsRadio 1090 AM/101.5 FM.

All of these businesses have displayed a commitment to making Baltimore a better place by dedicating staff and resources to efforts outside their business mission with the goal of having a lasting positive impact on the city and its residents.

While many of these initiatives have a dramatic effect on the individuals and communities they touch, they often fly under the radar and don’t make headlines. The Mayor’s Business Recognition Awards Luncheon not only honors these companies for their community service, but also gives them a well-deserved shout-out in front of the many high-level executives, public officials and others who attend the event to network and applaud the award winners.

Role of private sector

Why is it important for businesses to engage in community service efforts?

For one, local governments and philanthropies can’t address all social challenges alone. The private sector can play a key role in problem solving. In addition, businesses can generate bold, innovative ideas to address a challenge, even though it won’t generate revenue or profit.

Here are a few other examples from this year’s group of winners:

Howard Bank, which moved its headquarters from Howard County to Baltimore city, established a program in which employees could take up to 20 hours of paid time off to do volunteer work. In the first 10 months of the program 41 percent of the bank’s employees participated, volunteering at a wide range of nonprofits, including the Maryland Food Bank, the Ed Reed Foundation Summer Camp and Our Daily Bread.

Hilton Baltimore Inner Harbor and its employees were busy supporting a number of community projects, including cooking turkeys for needy families that are assisted by Santa’s Helpers Anonymous. They also actively engaged in environmental restoration projects and assisting with the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, a program that encourages  students to discuss their own strengths, goals and needs to parents, family members and teachers.

Many business leaders suggest argue that companies that engage in such community projects see internal benefits that may match the community service provided, according to an article published by Entrepreneur magazine. These benefits include distinguishing the company from competitors, customer loyalty and happier employees.

That may all be true. For the Greater Baltimore Committee and Baltimore Development Corporation the Mayor’s Business Recognition Awards is not because the companies or organizations sought to benefit. These businesses and their employees, on their own, took on a problem or challenge to support and help the city and its residents for the common good.

And if there are blessings worth giving “Thanks” for at this time of year, these individual and collective efforts by businesses should surely be among them.

Donald C. Fry is president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee. He is a frequent contributor to The Daily Record.

Read more at The Daily Record.

Also see:

At 40, Maryland Food Bank continues to work to eliminate food insecurity

The GBC Check-In: Sandie Nagel, Weekend Backpacks for Kids Founder