Distributors Having Fun

“We are stewards of the community,” says Marion Massinople, president of Mabscott Supply Company, “and as business owners, we have a responsibility not only to our customers and our employees, but to the communities in which we serve.”

A lot has been written about giving back to those communities, the communities where we work and live. Without exception, GAWDA members, both Active and Associate, have a stake in those communities. And without exception, GAWDA members are putting their talents to work to make those communities better.

There is probably not a distributor alive who has not been asked to donate helium to fill balloons for a school activity, or to put their talents for making money to use at a local fundraiser. Stewardship reaps rewards, and giving back comes back tenfold in a variety of ways, including good PR and perhaps a few new sales. 2006 GAWDA President Whip Seaman of Corp Brothers (Providence, RI), who serves as trustee for a community foundation that gives money away to needy groups in Rhode Island, summarizes what it means to be a steward…“We meet, we manage the money, and we give it away. It’s fun!”

Here’s to Distributors Having Fun…in ways creative and heartwarming and necessary.

Connecting to Customers Through Community

“Everyone has a story,” says LeeAnn Ryan, treasurer at Miller Welding Supply Co. (Grand Rapids, MI). And when it comes to GAWDA members giving back to their local communities, Ryan is right. Most distributors have their own stories about donating to groups like the United Way, Make-A-Wish, Special Olympics and hundreds of other needy charities. For MWSC, the charity of choice is Hospice of Michigan. “Everyone who works here has been touched by Hospice,” Ryan says, pointing to the work Hospice does for dying patients.

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Paul Vencanto, aka “SuperFundraising Sales Rep,” (center) helped Miller Welding Supply earn the distinction of “Outstanding Corporate Partner.” Hospice of Michigan President Dottie Deramo and Vice Chair Dr. Jim Fahner join Miller Welding Supply employees for the 2006 Walk.

For years, employees participated in the Hospice’s annual 5K fundraising walk. Five years ago, “We wanted to kick it up a notch,” says Ryan. Inspired by their father, Jerry Clay, who visited customers with two gas grills in the back of his truck sohe could cook lunch for them, Ryan and her brothers, MWSC president, Michael Clay, and Patrick Clay, vice president, decided to bring the customers to them. The company hosts a barbeque fundraiser, charging customers $10 for all they can eat. Held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., all proceeds from this one-day event go to the Hospice. Food—made and served by company management and employees—includes burgers, braut and Jerry Clay’s famous pulled pork. Last May, MWSC held its 5th Annual Barbeque for Hospice, and in a matter of three hours, raised $5,600.

“Our customers say they wouldn’t miss our barbeque for the world,” Ryan says, and part of the reason is that customers know MWSC is committed to them. Outside Sales Representative Paul Vencanto is an example. This year he raised $7,000 for the company’s contribution. “Paul has been known to drive six hours at one in the morning on a Sunday to troubleshoot because a customer is down,” Ryan says, “and they are very willing to return the favor at Hospice time. Plus,” Ryan adds, laughing, “he is a very competitive salesperson who doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

In 2006, the employees of MWSC raised more than $20,000 for Hospice of Michigan. In the process, the three-way connect among company, customers and community was sealed. There’s more…At GAWDA’s Spring Management Conference in Chicago last April, The Lincoln Electric Company approached Ryan with the offer to sponsor a $4,000 NASCAR VIP Dream Package to the GFS Marketplace 400 at the Michigan International Speedway. Raffle tickets brought in an additional $10,000 for the Hospice fund…and a lot of very favorable press for the company.


Children Are Our Future

In looking to give back to their communities, many distributors look at the backbone of the future: children and education. Through scholarships, equipment and financial donations to local schools, along with personal time, distributors always find themselves giving to kids.

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Lloyd Robinson (back row) goes back to school as Principal for a Day at a local junior high school.

Lloyd Robinson is president of AWISCO (Maspeth, NY), but for one day a year, he is principal of Oliver Wendell Holmes Intermediate School in Long Island City, and if you think dealing with disgruntled customers is tough, try teenagers in junior high. Being principal for a day is a program of the organization Public Education Needs Civic Involvement in Learning (PENCIL), and is geared toward building partnerships between businesses and public schools. Robinson’s favorite part of the day as principal is visiting classrooms and answering questions from students. “No matter what grade, the second question I am always asked is how much money I make.” He finds the question troubling and takes the opportunity to talk to students about studying hard and working hard. “They want to go from nothing to being a multi-millionaire overnight.” Robinson points out to this future workforce the importance of staying in school, being focused and achieving goals, and teaches them that “success takes hard work.”

School systems lack funds,” notes Gay Treadwell, treasurer of Munn Supply (Enid, OK), and they rely on local companies to help them out. That’s where we step in.” Munn Supply regularly donates gloves, helmets, goggles and other supplies to the welding classes of Vocational-Agriculture schools within a ten-county area of northwest Oklahoma. President Phil Treadwell adds, “These are good kids, and we encourage them to know our industry.”

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Robert Stoody in his Element, teaching the powers of CO2 and helium to kindergarten students.

Chicopee Welding & Tool (Chicopee, MA) donates gift certificates for equipment to the local high school’s welding department. President Wayne Lemoine is excited that interest and participation in the welding classes have increased. “It’s been up 50 percent for the past two years,” he says. “Welding seems to be coming back.” Chicopee Welding & Tool’s presence in this renaissance is sure to be remembered by those future welders.

It may never rain in Southern California, but it does snow, thanks to Stoody Industrial & Welding Supply (San Diego, CA). President Robert Stoody Sr. became worried when elementary school science teachers started showing up at his store to buy liquid nitrogen. “They were getting instructions for their experiments from the Internet, where they’d find a basic warning, along with the directive: ‘Go to your local welding supply store and buy liquid nitrogen.’ These teachers don’t have the background for handling compressed gases and cryogenics.” Stoody decided to donate the liquid nitrogen to the school on the condition that he be able to educate the teacher on how to safely handle it. In the process, he found himself donating time to those science classes, and has become the cryogenic ice cream maker of choice. “The kids love it,” he says. And the schools love him. Stoody serves on the School Board of the Ramona Unified School District in San Diego County, and this year was voted “Rookie School Board Member of the Year.”


President and CEO Dennis Hulth wanted to do something special for his employees at Mittler Supply (South Bend, IN), and decided to provide free tutoring for their children. An employee with a teaching background, Beth Underhill, organizes the program called Families for Educational Excellence. The tutors come to Mittler Supply to first meet the parent during the workday, then tutoring takes place off-site. “It’s all about employees,” Hulth says.

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Louisville, home of the Kentucky Derby, is also home to Welding & Therapy Service. The two come together at the International Mounted Games Association, a youth equestrian program.

“We do everything from carrying equipment to shoveling horse manure,” says Paul Greiling Jr., president and CEO of Welding & Therapy Service (Louisville, KY). The company donates time and money to the U.S. Chapter of the International Mounted Games Association, a youth equestrian program. Greiling serves as an international representative for the organization, and several employees donate time and talent. “It’s extreme games on horseback,” explains Greiling, “teaching youth sportsmanship and competition in a multi-cultural environment.”

I know how to raise money!” said David Mahoney, president and CEO of AWESCO (Albany, NY), to an acquaintance whose daughter suffered from Rett Syndrome, a debilitating neurological disease. During this conversation, Mahoney learned about the Miracle League, a program that helps children with disabilities play baseball, and he decided to put his fundraising skills to the test. The Miracle League’s custom-designed field has a rubberized turf, wheelchair accessible dugouts, and a flat surface to eliminate any barriers to wheelchair accessibility or visually impaired players. Accessible restrooms, concession stand and picnic pavilion are included in the design. Cost to build: $225,000. Mahoney rationalized asking nine sponsors, equivalent to the nine players on a baseball team, to donate $25,000 each. To date, seven local companies, including AWESCO, have agreed to sponsor the East Greenbush Miracle League project, and as of press time, the remaining two are in the bullpen warming up. “It’s catching momentum,” Mahoney says. “I’m pumped.”

Laurie Waller, vice president of Sky Oxygen (Carnegie, PA), took a long, hard look at her company’s annual Christmas party and saw its extravagance. A generous supporter of children’s charities, Waller knew that employees wanted to do something more for those less fortunate. Now, in place of that party, Sky Oxygen “adopts” local children with special needs and no family. Employees purchase gifts for the children. “It was easy to set up the program,” says Waller, “and the response from employees has been tremendous.”


Give Presence

Community service is important to employees of Tech Air (Danbury, CT), whose staff is made up of fire fighters, coaches and supporters of local churches. Recently, President Myles Dempsey Jr. participated in a new town volunteer program called ShareFest. Held during a May weekend, ShareFest mobilized 1,600 volunteers from 43 churches in ten surrounding towns. The volunteers “put words into action” by working on projects for those in need. Dempsey painted and did yard work at low-income housing projects. Being a part of the community is important to Dempsey and his business. “We want to be a significant presence,” he says.

Many distributors feel connections to organizations that have impacted the lives of customers, vendors and employees. Lake Welding Supply Co. (Muskegon, MI) began donating to the LAM Foundation, a group dedicated to finding a cure for a lung disease affecting women in their child-bearing years, after the wife of a customer contracted the disease. Giving to organizations that are important to his customers and his employees is essential to business for President Ike Spriensma. “We’re an employee-owned company, and we support our community because our employees live in our community.” Lake Welding Supply Co. also donates to Wings of Mercy, helping to buy fuel to fly needy children and adults to medical care. A customer is a Wings of Mercy pilot.


Giving Through Public Service

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Airweld Service Manager Kevin Mauro has been a member of the North Massapequa Fire Department since 1994. He became Captain in April 2006.

Getting involved in the community is the best way to understand that businesses do not operate in a vacuum,” says Virginia DuPuy, president of DuPuy Oxygen & Supply Company (Waco, TX). DuPuy decided a few years ago that she had to delegate to her two sons if they were to eventually take over the business and continue to grow it. “I had to learn to hire well, delegate effectively, and turn over the keys.” As her sons took on more responsibility, DuPuy got out of their way and found herself on various boards where, she says, “there were real opportunities to make a difference,” including Workforce Development, College Foundation, Technology and others. In 2005, DuPuy was elected Mayor of Waco, and re-elected in 2006. “It’s very important for business leaders to serve on community boards and commissions,” she says. “Our cities need the leadership and perspective of the business community.” DuPuy’s key focus as mayor is economic development and young leadership development.

A large number of GAWDA distributors and their employees serve as volunteer firefighters and EMTs. Lynn Cook, president of Humphries Incorporated (American Fork, UT), has been a member of the American Fork Fire Department for 28 years. His son, Bruce Cook, vice president, has been a member for 12 years. “It’s satisfying and allows us to give back to the community,” Cook says. He acknowledges the challenge when a fire call comes in the middle of the workday. “We have to leave.” His customers know that the Cooks are keeping the community safe, and gratefully wait.


Giving Gas

Sometimes, for distributors, giving to the community is as easy as “passing the torch,” literally. Providing services unique to the welding and gases industry allows distributors to get their names in the community for the service they provide. Many organizations rely on local gas and welding supply stores for helium and other gases. Atlas Welding Supply Company (Lakewood, NJ) has been giving oxygen to local fire and emergency responders for much of its 50-year history. California Tool & Welding Supply (Riverside, CA) sponsors CO2 for snack bars at sporting events. Colorado Welding Supply (Colorado Springs, CO) donates helium for balloons used at school graduations, the Leukemia Walk, and other non-profit events. President Eric Younger prefers donating to smaller, non-profit groups that really are in need.


Making a Difference

“Rescue” is a strong word at General Welding Supply Company (Denver, CO). The company has long supported Denver’s Rescue Mission and homeless shelter, so when it came to rescuing an unemployed man with a past history of substance abuse, GWS employees were only too happy to assist. Dave Fischer, president, saw potential in the young man, and hired him. The company’s staff of seven provides job support, and are doing everything they can to help him succeed. “The whole company is taking on this responsibility,” Fischer says, “We think everybody deserves a second chance. We’re hoping to make a difference.”

Mabscott Supply Company (Beckley, WV) recently was described in a state-wide business newspaper as “One of 55 Good Things about West Virginia.” President Marion Massinople and the employees of Mabscott are one of the reasons for that distinction. Since its founding in 1942, the company has supported everything from the animal shelter to the YMCA, and Massinople believes that business owners have a responsibility to give back with time, resources, and a skill at which many are good—fundraising. His son, Mabscott Vice President Michael Massinople, puts his business skills to work for Tamarack, a foundation that promotes rural West Virginia artists. He is teaching artists how to be entrepreneurs as they learn how to market and sell their work, then deal with the results of their success—profits and taxes. Why does he do it? “Our company is one of the few independent businesses left in West Virginia. National companies do not have local ties. If we don’t help our local community, who else will?”

That’s a question answered by GAWDA members throughout North America. Whether it’s time, money, ability or skill, we’re there…and having fun!


Distributors have a long tradition of Generous Giving to their community.
Here are a few more ways they do it…
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Pooch Welding Supply in Benton Harbor, MI always supports the local fire and police departments. Long-time employee Don Redding is Assistant Fire Chief for the Galien Township Fire Department.

Weiler Welding Company (Dayton, OH) has sponsored the First Dayton Little League since 1947. Herbert Weiler Jr., president, points out the importance of supporting young people in the community. The company sponsors several youth soccer teams, a volleyball team, and is a regular contributor to the athletic departments at both the University of Dayton and Wright State University.

Known as vice president of Cryo Weld Corporation (Poughkeepsie, NY) by day, at night and
on weekends Paul Pagano is known as coach of the Dutchess Devil Fish, a competitive YMCA swim team for kids ages 5 to 18. In addition to teaching kids how to swim well and fast, Pagano focuses on sportsmanship and achieving goals. Pagano is not alone in his double duties. Many GAWDA members donate time and money to local sports programs.

Dexter Thomas has worked at Industrial Welding Supply (Sayreville, NY) since 1998 as a driver and is an EMT for the Sayreville Fire Aid Squad. His son, Jordan Thomas, has been with the company for three years in the warehouse and is a fire fighter for Sayreville Engine Company #1. Mike Evertsberg volunteers for Laurelton Fire Department and has worked at Industrial Welding Supply for 10 years as a driver and in the warehouse.

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Sales Rep Patrick Gonzalez (back row, left) coaches a basketball team sponsored by California Tool & Welding Supply.

Distributors often sponsor local sports teams, and the advertising on the many shirts worn by team members is priceless. Chris Craig, president, California Tool & Welding Supply (Riverside, CA), is a proud sponsor of the athletic teams played on by the children of his employees.

United Welding Supply (Portland, OR) is a small company with a big heart. Bruce Thompson, president, is always ready to respond when people from the neighborhood walk into the store asking for help, especially for neighborhood sports programs. Located in a depressed area of Portland, United Welding Supply is situated across the street from a halfway house. On the way in and out of work, employees are reminded of others’ needs, and respond graciously and generously with support.

GWS Welding Supply (Dallas, TX) is a strong supporter of the Scottish Rite Hospital and of the local (Calhoun County) child protective services program. President Floyd F. Dean Jr. says, “When we see children at a fundraising event, we are always surprised to see how badly they need donations.”

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During the Hospice Walk, Miller Welding Supply Co. sponsors the Memorial Garden. The plants are later auctioned off to family and friends.

Compressed Gas & Supply (Oklahoma City, OK) gives annually to a number of different groups, but keeps an eye out for other ways to contribute to the community. Recently, the company supported a single mother’s conference at a local church. Richard Jefferies, president, was pleased to respond to the opportunity. “Single mothers don’t get the attention they should,” he says.

Thomas Biedermann, vice president at Airweld, Inc. (Farmingdale, NY), shares his business acumen in his hometown of Patchogue. As a member of the Business Improvement District Board, Biedermann oversees projects to make the community better. The Board collects money from the tax base and uses it for funding arts projects, planting trees, flowers and other downtown beautification projects.

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Mittler Supply employees are given a day off to spend a "day of caring" in the community. (l-r) Kirk Saha, Chris Miller, Cindy Good, Ann Sabinas, Karen Bogard, Dan Tetzlaff and JoAnn Schosker clean up the BSA Service Center.

 
 

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Valley Welders Supply is a platinum sponsor of the Montana Special Olympics and was on board for that charity's 2006 Fundraising Rodeo. Some of the top professionals of the rodeo circuit, including Rob Smets, Jody Newberry and Cody Custer, teach VWS employees and other participants, how to loop a rope.

   

Gases and Welding Distributors Association