Harvey Nelson: “Be Selfish – Give Back!”

“I have been the fortunate recipient of good health, a quick mind, a great sense of humor, a wonderful family growing up, a fantastic wife and three incredible kids, a successful business that I got to start and grow with one of my best friends, great friends from childhood and new friends from adulthood…I could go on and on.

So how could I have been given all of this and not give back?

And then when I give back – I find out that giving back is a selfish act because it always turns out to be good for me.

As you know it has been said – that it is better to give than to receive – and I find this especially true when it comes to advice. So my advice to you is to be selfish and give back!!

Let me explain with some examples.                                            

I always loved sports and played on a lot of teams growing up. I had a lot of great coaches and fond memories.  So, in my early twenties, I started coaching kids’ baseball. One year I asked a friend of mine to help. We had a great time and eventually, she became my wife.

I always had a passion for teaching. When we were first starting, I learned about junior achievement where I could go into a high school and teach once a week as a volunteer business consultant. You know how a parent must do the hard stuff, like discipline and saying no to their kids but a grandparent gets to come over and play and have fun and spoil their grandkids, and when the kids get cranky hand them back to the parents and go home? Well, I found out that volunteering in the classroom was like being a grandparent!!

When we were looking for a new salesperson years ago we chose a young man by the name of Nate Searles. Nate was working for the Boys and Girls Club and my partner, Steve Marks, had met him through that organization. Steve suggested Nate and yes you guessed it – after working his way up, Nate is now our director of sales!

Sometimes when giving back and making a difference you get a great story. Muffins for Mammograms is an event we have teamed up with Akron General Hospital for over 20 years. We have raised over $200,000 to help raise awareness of breast cancer and to help pay for women who cannot afford mammograms. We have even had other companies including the radio station WQMX join in to help the cause. Although there are many heartwarming stories, my favorite is from the first meeting we had when we were approached to partner with the hospital. (tell the story)

Our HR director, Kelly Loebick-Frascella became connected with the International Institute of Akron. The institute supports refugees from war-torn countries like Myanmar and Nepal. Kelly suggested we work with the institute and provide a few jobs for some of these refugees. We now have people from 16 different countries who speak 11 languages and have an incredible, hardworking team that has allowed us to grow over the past five years.

Two to three times per year we run an event at the foodbank with the help of many volunteers from our company called No Muffin Left Behind. This is a win-win-win event. We win because we sell a product that does not meet our customer’s specs but is perfectly fine to eat, the community wins because they get great tasting products at a reasonable price and the foodbank wins because they get 500-600 people who learn about the foodbank, get all of the leftovers and we donate a portion of the proceeds.

When we put together a board of advisors for our business we found some great mentors due to the relationships we had built from volunteering on the boards of non-profits. One of those people, Phil Maynard, Founder of ASW services and a brilliant businessman joined as a result of meeting him while I was president of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank Board. Another, Joe Kanfer, the leader of GOJO and the energy behind Purell joined because of how much we had given back to the community. (tell the story)

There are many more examples like Steve creating the Akron Marathon, employees who joined our company because of our community involvement, and my volunteer stint as chairman of Forum 360 where I got to do a television talk show and meet some of the most interesting people in the region, that a few people are volunteering from our company tonight at the Taste of the NFL at the Pro Football Hall of Fame that is the Foodbank fundraiser…but I think you get the picture!

So in conclusion, when you give back you become part of something bigger than yourself, you make connections that can help you down the road, you become part of the community, you have the opportunity to pursue your passions, you will gain valuable learning experience, you will help others but the best part is – it makes you feel good!

I do not need to be the only lucky one to be here today – so go ahead and be selfish and find your way to give back!” – Harvey Nelson, ArtsNow Board Member, Co-Chief Executive Officer of Main Street Gourmet