CHICAGO — The heart isn’t supposed to really “feel” things. It’s a muscle, they say.
But when you go beyond what’s expected, they say you’re “showing a lot of heart.” And when you are empathetic to others, you are said to “have a heart.” And when you reach out to help your community, you are “opening your heart to others.”
Drycleaning owners and operators reach out to their communities in many ways, and the heart they show is in the form of volunteerism, donations, and charitable causes to help their communities and assist the needy.
Let’s look at three examples from cleaners around the United States and see how they involve themselves and their business operations to help others in need.
“Our cleaners has supported the local Coats for Kids for 18 years in conjunction with the Volunteer Center in Fort Wayne; collecting, sorting and cleaning over 50,000 coats that have been distributed in the community through this program,” says Steve Grashoff, president of Peerless Cleaners located in Fort Wayne, Ind., also the Certified Restoration Drycleaning Network (CRDN) of Northern Indiana affiliate.
The program he mentions has grown to include not only used coats but new coats purchased through community donations.
“We also have been involved with the Cinderella Project for over 16 years with the Fort Wayne Medical Alliance,” he relates, “collecting and distributing gently used prom dress to young ladies in our community, 400 to 600 distributed per year.”
Giving back includes all the different ways drycleaning owners open their hearts to help the needy. Those efforts build strong and supportive community ties.
Many charitable deeds start close to home, so to speak, right in the dry cleaners’ neighborhood, helping community groups.
Steve Klinke, president of Klinke Cleaners, along with his brother Richard, vice president, are third generation dry cleaners based in Madison, Wis.
“We are involved with many community events and charities but the two programs that we support directly with our cleaning expertise is that of Koats for Kids, which runs from September to October each year, and All Dressed Up which runs in February each year.”
Many drycleaning operators have families and often have homes in the same communities their business is located in, treating their localities like an extended family, ready to help with arms open.
Enter Steve Tucciarello, owner, Colony Dry Cleaners, located in Gates, N.Y., born and raised in the suburban Rochester town of 28,000 where he lives today with his wife and two children.
“My favorite organizations to give to are ones that are in town and focused on children, the grass roots hometown organizations,” he says.
Tucciarello notes that his business gives to Little League, football, softball, soccer and just about any other child-focused organizations. But it doesn’t stop there, of course, as giving back has no real boundaries.
“We also give to organizations that we really feel can use our support, some regularly, others occasionally,” he points out.
“Our charitable partners include: the local Police Keystone Club, our local Fire Department, theSpecial Olympics, the Ronald McDonald House, Theresa House (hospice), IACC Women of Excellence Gala Event, Town of Gates Recreation & Parks Dept., Genesee Valley Concern of Police Survivors, Relay for Life (American Cancer Society), gifts for military children, and Dream Factory.”
His business, which has two stores, along with retail routes to customer’s homes and offices and also wholesale routes, has made bigger contributions and promotions to Breast Cancer Coalition of Rochester, the YMCA and Hope Hall.
“Hope Hall was, I believe, the first organization we gave to," Tucciarello says. “At the time, I was volunteering as a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals."
“One day, I was having a conversation with my mentor, Town Supervisor Ralph Esposito. I had asked him about community service and giving back. He gave me his insight and perspective by saying that he was so grateful for all this community has done for and meant to him and his family. He attributed so much of the better parts of his life and the happiness that he and his family received, as members of the community.
“Then he told me to go visit Hope Hall and meet with Sister Diana Dolce, SSJ, and that would be a good place to start," Tucciarello says.
Hope Hall, according to its website, provides a multi-sensory, supportive learning environment for students with Auditory Processing Disorders, Autism, ADD, and ADHD, and serves approximately 160 students in grades 3-12. They note there is a 100% high school graduation rate.
“After meeting Sister Diana and visiting Hope Hall, I decided that I really wanted to do something that would be fun, build a donation and create awareness. We printed a whiteboard that basically said that for every paid order over $20, we would donate $1 to Hope Hall, and we would have customers sign the board; we left it up for the entire month of October.
“We were able to make a nice donation to Hope Hall, which was accompanied by the whiteboard covered in signatures, and we created a lot of awareness for Hope Hall,” he says.
Also, he notes that for the past 10 years, “we have joined in with our county executive and Office for the Aging in the Coats for Seniors coat drive. I have spoken at most of the kick-off press conferences and together with the partners in the event have collected over 8,000 coats. I also belong to local civic organizations and attend many functions and events.”
Drycleaning owners also recognize it takes lots of helping support in their communities, as found in Tucciarello’s words of appreciation for Colony’s program partners: “For Koats for Kids, that's WISCTV3, Community Action Coalition and Magic 98. For All Dressed Up, our partner is the Junior League of Madison. These organizations help make these programs the successes that they are!”
There are so many ways to get involved and help, and not just as fabricare industry professionals, but as neighbors, friends and good citizens on display. Sometimes the help comes in rolling up sleeves or sharing expertise or the giving of time.
Grashoff gives an example of this when he says: “Early on after my wife and I purchased the business, we were approached by many organizations to donate money. We just did not have the resources to get involved in our community in that manner but found organizations that we could give of our talents.
“We find that these type of projects get our entire company involved instead of us just writing a check, which builds teamwork and goodwill.”
Klinke concludes: “You can’t feel connected with a community until you give back. We are honored and humbled to be able to serve our local neighbors, and this is one of many ways we can show our appreciation.”
Being so connected to his town, Tucciarello says: “I have always strived to do things that make our community better every day. I ran for office and served a full 10-year-term representing Gates in the Monroe County legislature and rose to the position of majority leader. After serving the maximum time in the Legislature, I became a Gates town councilman, a position that I currently hold.
“I give back to the community, not only as an elected person but also through connecting and advising people and businesses, and giving donations.”
The two magic words here aren’t magic at all: giving back! But what they really mean is spreading love. It only takes one thing. Drycleaning owners have it, show it and open it often — heart.
To read Part 1, go HERE.