During the month of June, DHG hosted its seventh annual food drive, Count the Cans. Our people collectively volunteered, donated canned food and gave monetary support to our local food banks to fight hunger during the summer months. This year DHG donated more than 112,000 pounds of food and gave more than $76,000 to hunger relief organizations during the Count the Cans campaign. A passion for community outreach and philanthropic giving is part of who we are at DHG, and one of our firm leaders has lived out that passion throughout his life. This year, Pat Shuler became the President of the DHG Foundation, and he joins me this month to share his passion for serving our communities.
You are very passionate about giving back to the community. What fuels your passion?
Giving back to the community has always been engrained in me by both sides of my family. It was an important part of my life as I grew up, as a young adult and still today. I truly believe that for a community to thrive, everyone has to participate in one way, shape or form to move a community forward and raise it up. So many members of our community need someone to help them out – maybe for medical reasons, a lost job or a need for more food on the table. Every day, whether we witness it ourselves or not, people get stuck in a rut, and we have the opportunity to help get them through what are often very hard times.
I have a passion for helping children and helped found the Orphan Network with several friends through my church. The organization is still going strong today – helping children in Nicaragua have the chance for a brighter future, who otherwise would be forgotten in the streets. Over the years, I became very involved with the local chapter and then on the national level of the American Diabetes Association as the Secretary/Treasurer. At first, I did not know anything about diabetes and did not have a connection to it in my family. After learning more and wanting to make an impact, I became very involved and participated in board leadership positions, volunteered via community outreach and provided financial support.
Has your involvement in your local community positively impacted your career?
My involvement in charitable work has never been for a business purpose but in the long run, it has impacted my career. My wife and I have both been heavily involved in our community because it’s been the right thing to do. Over time, we’ve made many connections and know so many people in our community, simply because we’ve been involved with charitable organizations and community outreach. As a result of those connections, I’m working with more local organizations, helping them turn around financially, and that has connected me to other business leaders who have come to me for help with their businesses.
Getting involved in the community also gives you a heightened level of confidence to interact with people and create common bonds. Others start to trust you when they get to know you while you are giving back to the community. I’ve always said, pick a cause that pulls your heart strings so you can walk into an organization with a purpose.
What lessons have you learned from giving back and what would you tell someone who may be interested in becoming more involved in their local communities but is not sure where to start?
When I was in my twenties and thirties, I was very involved with the Norfolk Jaycees. I got to know other young professionals, and we were in the same place in life and in our careers. We helped out at Christmas tree lots and visited children in the hospital together – we lived life together while helping people in our community.
For those starting out with community outreach, choose an organization where you are in a similar place in your career with others as you give back to the community. Use your time to give back. As time goes on and you make more connections, bring alignment to where you are in your life to what you are doing in the community. As you progress further in your career, there will be other opportunities to give back – maybe through monetary donations or board positions. That foundation you build with community involvement when you are young will provide new and varying opportunities to build community connections for the future.
Why is supporting campaigns like Count the Cans so important to our leaders and the DHG Foundation?
For large firms like DHG, it’s a challenge to find a charitable organization or cause that connects with all of our people across our footprint. It’s important to align the charitable cause we choose in an impactful way. One thing we have in our entire footprint is hunger; people need food, including entire families that don’t make enough money for food. During the school year, parents know their kids may have access to two meals at school, and they simply provide dinner. But the summer months are often the time when families struggle to provide adequate nourishment for their families.
Every geographic area of our firm has a local food bank where we can make an impact in a big way. Count the Cans has given us the opportunity to serve our communities and local food banks as ONE DHG team, making that purposeful impact together across the firm. DHG is more than just the work we do on a daily basis – it’s really about our people. Count the Cans is what we do together that matters. We don’t do it for exposure for DHG, but others in the community do notice what our people are doing to serve.
What is one volunteer experience that you will never forget?
When I was in the Jaycees, I volunteered at a local hospice for children. I went every week to interact with kids who faced terminal illnesses, have some fun and brighten their days. I remember one boy who I worked with over three or four weeks. On that last week, I came back and he was not there. His mother told me that he had passed away; it was very difficult for me to wrap my brain around this – that he had his whole life in front of him and the time he did have was so short. His mom reminded me that her son could not grasp the entirety of his life at such a young age, but she thanked us for bringing him and his siblings joy during such a hard time – that we had helped to contribute a fun environment for him during his last weeks of life. Wow, she was so grateful for the time we interacted with him to bring a smile to his face.
That time and many others I faced during community outreach remind me today that it’s not all about me; it’s about giving back to those who need help, who need love and who need our support.