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In The Pink: Ways Owners Support Their Communities (Conclusion)

Step up, seek out partnerships, and talk to your customers about how they give

CHICAGO — In the pink! That’s a phrase that means you’re healthy, you’re doing well, and in this case, you are also helping out your fellow citizens in need through all of your good works. (Also, these smiling volunteers in the photo are wearing pink to raise awareness and support for finding a cure for breast cancer.)

Drycleaning owners across the United States participate in their local events for the good of their communities and to support charities that help people in need. As examples, we picked out three owners from different parts of the country to share that community service spirit.


Last, meet Tom Zengeler, fifth generation owner of Northbrook, Illinois-based Zengeler Cleaners, known as the oldest drycleaning operations in the U.S., first founded before the Civil War and going strong today 163 years on. They point out high tech equipment, high quality solutions, and skilled employees to ensure a higher standard in fabric care.

“Community service is one of the pillars of our culture. We give back in a variety of ways,” says Tom Zengeler.

In talking about community service, tell us all the ways you and your business reach out and help your community?

Zengeler: “We currently participate, and have for years, in The Glass Slipper Project. They provide prom dresses for girls in Chicago who are unable to afford dresses, so they don’t miss out on this right of passage. We collect, clean, repair, and deliver them to Chicago each year and help them set up their facility for the big shopping day. We collect dresses all year long, at each of our locations, store them, and deliver.

“We also team up with Libertyville, Ill.-based Sunrise Rotary to collect Coats for Vets. We collect, clean and deliver about 3,000 coats annually to the local VA Hospital here in Lake County, Ill.

“Something new: due to the overwhelming generosity of our community supplying prom dresses, last year we also partnered with Mother’s Trust Foundation in Lake Forest, Ill., and supplied them with prom dresses for their inaugural Pop Up Prom Shoppe that supplies Lake County girls with prom dresses, as well as shoes, jewelry, and accessories. This event was a massive success and Mother’s Trust has become a solid partner.

“In addition, it is worth mentioning that Zengeler Cleaners also provides Rotary, Glass Slipper Project, and Mother’s Trust with a great deal of PR and promotion for each of these events. We use all our distribution channels, such as social, website, emails, store signage, news connections, and the like, to give these events exposure.

“What a lot of folks don’t see, however, is the countless ways behind the scenes that Zengeler Cleaners supports each community the programs are involved with, such as sponsorships to local non-profits, my work on boards such as SEDOL, which stands for Special Education District of Lake County, and more.”

Let’s talk about how your business first started out helping your community: How did you and your drycleaning business first get involved?

Zengeler: “The short answer is, I simply followed the lead of my father and grandparents who, early on, understood that it is important to serve. It’s in the Zengeler DNA to give back. I’ve learned from those who came before me, and it is a meaningful way to work and live.”

Can you share some stories of people you’ve helped and how that community service touches your own team and you, personally?

Zengeler: “We are fortunate to employ people who genuinely care about others, and take care of one another within the company.

“We have attended the events mentioned above, and the experience of seeing girls excited to shop for their prom dresses is gratifying in so many ways. One one occasion a mom from Chicago pulled one of the individuals on my team to the side to thank us. She was in tears and told him that their daughter is a foster child with their family and the opportunity to receive a dress, and all accessories, made the difference in whether or not her child could attend her prom. It meant a great deal to the young lady, and her family.

“There are countless stories throughout the years which provides all of us at Zengeler the emotional fuel to keep looking for ways to make a difference. We take great pride in keeping our eyes and ears open for ways to give back.”

What are some of the best ways to get the word out about community events and charities coming up to your customers and partners and others who can help spread the word?

Zengeler: “The best way, of course, is word of mouth. Nothing beats friends telling other friends about ways to give back. We amplify this by using PR, social media, and all the other tools we have, such as signage, flyers, and more. Our employees know all about what we do and why, and talk to customers about it as well.”

Anything surprise you, in a good way of course, about your drycleaning business participating in these charitable events and drives?

Zengeler: “As we mentioned, we do this because it is in our DNA to give back. We’d do it even if we didn’t get the publicity, because as citizens it’s the right thing to do, and that is important.

“The public loves a good human story and has embraced these events with gusto. We have customers who actually go out and buy new dresses and coats to pass along. It’s humbling and it’s something that really connects us to everyone in our community on a personal level.”

Could you share a tip or two with other drycleaning owners who might want to start helping their community?

Zengeler: “Just do it. Step up, seek out the partnerships and talk to your customers about how they give. Support them. The key is being in the community, and listening with your heart.

“Even with all the wonderful non profits, churches and other organizations in the community doing great things, there are always gaps. For example, the Pop Up Prom Shoppe in Lake County was a huge gap. We were able to fill a need that wasn’t being met by any other organization and, obviously, it fit well with us. Mother’s Trust gets the credit here, but we are a key ingredient in the event’s success.

“Also, focus on doing one thing really well. It’s tempting to want to spread yourself around too much because we all want to help everyone, but find your interest, and look for ways to maximize the event and make it the best it can be. Dry cleaners can make a huge impact in their community. It starts with a ‘what if’ conversation with others who can help you execute.”

Anything else you’d like to add about community service?

Zengeler: “Serving is a privilege and a key to happiness in life.”

So many garment care owners and operations across the United States do things to help in their communities and make a difference to people in need. These were just three examples of all that you do. Stay healthy in your life, your business, and in that healthy attitude of giving back to your community. Your caring spirit will keep you — and those you help — always in the pink!

To read Part 1, go HERE.

prom dresses were for the inaugural Pop Up Prom Shoppe

Zengeler Cleaners’ collection efforts at last year’s Mother’s Trust Foundation drive. The prom dresses were for the inaugural Pop Up Prom Shoppe, and the event was a big success. (Photo by Zengeler Cleaners)

Have a question or comment? E-mail our editor Dave Davis at [email protected] .