By Steve Keckeis, Charlotte Region Leader, Messer Construction Co.
Community service is often used by companies to boost their marketing image, and rightly so: Just like community service can look good on a resume, a company’s genuine community engagement efforts can be a great indicator to potential customers that the organization genuinely cares about improving their city or town.
The important thing is for people (and companies) to volunteer for the right reasons. If you’re only focused on using community service to improve your image or make a big career move, your overall impact will decrease and you won’t be as motivated to put much effort into it either.
The overall message I’d like to share with you is this: Don’t engage with your community because your company wants you to. Do it because it’s something you want to do.
Simply put, follow your heart.
Finding Ways to Make a Genuine Difference
I used to chair (and then co-chair) the American Heart Association Community Teams in Charlotte, and I loved every minute of it. At that time in my life, my late wife had recently passed away from a heart attack. And today I still walk on teams multiple times a year because the AHA cause is still something near and dear to me.
Again, follow your heart and the rest of the benefits—for your community, for your company, for yourself—will naturally come to fruition. For example, one of the first organizations I volunteered for was the North Fairmount Community Center (NFCC) in Cincinnati. Messer Construction Co. (my employer) donated labor hours and excavation equipment to rehab houses. NFCC then used a sustainable model to help local low-income individuals become homeowners. I was proud to be a part of that organization for many years.
Through these experiences I learned that the end result doesn’t have to be big or flashy – it’s about stretching yourself, learning new skills, building relationships, and applying what you’re good at in ways that can help others
How Can You Really Understand Your Impact? Embrace It!
I currently serve on the board of a number of community organizations in and around Charlotte, NC, including the Renaissance West Community Initiative (RWCI). RWCI just finished up the new Howard Levine Child Development Center at Renaissance West to help underprivileged kids in the community. Kids are a cause I really care about.
I knew our project had really hit home during the recent grand opening for all of the project donors. A mom from the community was there holding her baby girl, and the girl was being so fidgety and she just could not sit still. On an impulse, I put my arms out to her—and she jumped right into them.
For the next 30 or 40 minutes, she and I were the best of friends. (Her parents were there and seemed to enjoy the reprieve.) Then, the moment came when Messer was recognized for the work we had done for the project. This was a very special moment because I was being recognized while actually holding a 2 year-old girl, Joy, who will soon be benefitting from the Howard Levine Child Development Center.
To me, these moments when I know I’ve made a real difference for someone are what giving back is really all about. It’s not about a fancy case study on a company website, or even a LinkedIn post. It’s about really feeling the impact and knowing the community will be better for the work and the time I’m contributing.
Having said that, it does make a big difference to work for a company that genuinely wants to improve its surrounding community.
Working for a Company that Cares
At Messer, we as a company value community service because our communities are where our employees live.
Everything Messer does as a company—from training people to pursue careers in construction to offering industry-leading opportunities for advancement—is focused on our people. The community is a big part of that. In fact, Messer first moved into Charlotte because we knew our employees would want to live and work here.
This is where we are. Why not make it better?
Through my experience with Messer, I’ve discovered that it’s possible to align your profession with your passions and that working for a company that cares will only accelerate the impact you can have.
Steve Keckeis is the Charlotte Region Leader who began his career with Messer Construction Co. in 1982 and has since led many diverse projects, including: aviation, medical, recreational, educational facilities, and more. His leadership success resulted in his relocation in 2011 to Charlotte, North Carolina, to develop Messer’s newest region, where he is an active board member of Renaissance West Community Initiative (RWCI) and chairs the Building and Grounds Committee where he oversees the new Child Development Center facility. He sits on boards of other organizations, including the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce and the Charlotte American Heart Association. He also supports Goodwill Industries, UNC Charlotte’s College of Engineering, and Second Harvest Food Bank of Metrolina.