An Open Letter: Finding joy in serving others

Every quarter, we reach out to our employees and ask for updates on recent projects, stories of philanthropy, and other things they’ve been up to. We include stories of their volunteerism and how they give back to the community in our company magazine Perspective (read our latest issue here.) Specifically, we’ve recently been asking our employees “Why do you volunteer?”. Our firm will often become involved in causes large and small throughout the community. Our largest firmwide initiative this year was the Eagles Autism Challenge.

​The Philadelphia Eagles held the Eagles Autism Challenge on May 19th, 2018. The event featured three bike rides of varying distances and a 5K run/walk all ending at the 50-yard line at Lincoln Financial Field. More than 3,300 participants raised $2.5M and counting for the event, 100% of which will go to autism research and programs at beneficiary institutions. As a firm, we enjoyed teaming up, raising money and being a part of this special cause. The Pennoni team raised more than $6,000. 

We also put together a video featuring our employees telling us why they participated in the challenge. 

For our upcoming Fall issue of Perspective, we received dozens of emails with overwhelming and inspiring stories on the topic of philanthropy, and we wanted to share one in particular. This is a letter from Kenneth Long, a Business Development Manager in our Camden office. Read his response below.

We have all heard and read from others who call out for the need to “give back” to our communities. You’ll hear this in church, at work, on TV and you’ll read it in magazine and newspaper articles as well as self-help books and autobiographies. Some of the calls are specific to a date such as MLK Day or an event, such as folks recently affected by a natural disaster. I am a major proponent of “giving back”, serving others, meeting a need. Often, I don’t hear how I can help other than when a specific need arises. What I want to offer is the possibility of service for the sake of service. We could all stand for the possibility of serving others routinely and with joy outside the confines of fundraisers, events, or immediate needs. We can be extraordinary in service to others through our hobbies or interests.

I was raised by parents who mandated that we serve others always. I have been blessed to have owned a bunch of companies in my lifetime. I have bought a few, sold a few, and bootstrapped the ones I started. In all these businesses, I instilled in my controllers and bookkeepers that a percentage of revenue would go to a charity, entity or person in need. In all my professional life, there has been no company like Pennoni that I have served. Our firm is set up so that I don’t feel like I am pestering management to do charitable things, in fact, I dare say, in a lot of cases it is welcomed by leadership to do good for others.

I use what gives me joy to serve. It does not have to be outward service like picking up trash or feeding the hungry. There are all sorts of needs out there that can be met without spending a lot of money or time. Let’s say you are a Philadelphia Phillies fan and love going to the games, maybe you even have season tickets. Service could be giving those tickets to someone who cannot afford a game or who really needs a distraction away from personal issues for a night.

Or let’s say you are into real estate, maybe translate some of that interest into cataloguing homes specifically for low income renters who need help finding information in specific towns. By creating a catalogue and sending it to Housing Services in your area, this both serves a need and feeds your real estate hobby.

Service can also be a spot on the board of directors for a small nonprofit that struggles due to its obscurity or line of service. There are a lot of entities out there that need hands to help push the vehicle. This type of service teaches you how to be a board member, the ins and outs of nonprofits, and scratches the “need to serve” itch.

One more example could to take a topic you are passionate about and head to your local high school as a speaker on that topic for juniors and seniors. I know firsthand that high schools are always seeking speakers for their kids. They are especially seeking speakers who can talk about a passion that can be translated into a career or a way to earn an income for college, or a even just a message that you are qualified to provide.

At the end of your day and your life, two questions need to be answered: What have you done with your time and what have you done with your money? If you cannot answer either one of those with clarity, maybe it’s time to think about a plan in which you can answer those and bless others along the way. I am not one to pontificate since my life is nowhere near perfect or above the fray. I know there are needs every day that go unmet.

If your heart is tugging at your seams about this possibility and you do not know what to do about it, I welcome your email to discuss your next mission field. 

Kenneth Long


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