The captains of business met with the leaders of Alexandria’s nonprofits this week at the Chamber of Commerce’s annual Philanthropy Summit. The theme of the event was “connecting business to community,” and that was certainly the objective of the morning program at the Holiday Inn on First Street. Keynote speaker Alex Orfinger challenged those in the audience to question their assumptions about philanthropy.
“We should take the word ‘charity out of our vocabulary and put the focus on investing in our community,” said Orfinger, publisher of the Washington Business Journal and a longtime advocate of business philanthropy. “The real reason we’re here isn’t to listen to heart-tugging stories, it’s to create a core of — dare I say it — evangelists.”
He praised several of the region’s top givers, including major corporations such as Capital One and Bank of America. But he also said warned that one of the top philanthropic contributors in the Washington area is the congressionally chartered firm Fannie Mae, which was accused this week by the Securities and Exchange Commission of “extensive financial fraud.”
“What do we do when one of these takes a stumble?” he asked. “Who will step up to the plate?”
Orfinger challenged those in the audience to increase their involvement by making a contribution, joining a board of simply volunteering their time. After he was finished, several awards were presented by Volunteer Bureau Director Chris Marston and Chamber of Commerce Chairman Lonnie Rich.
Grant Thornton Global Sector Practice won the Business Philanthropy Award in the large business category for its work with the Carpenter’s Shelter. Since 2004, the company has involved almost one-third of its employees in shelter volunteer activities and fundraising initiatives for the homeless shelter for families. The company’s activities include children’s weekend field trips, leading Children’s’ Reading Hours, conducting job skill seminars for adults and giving financial support for various programs.
Allison DeCourcy, director of development and strategic alliances for the Carpenter’s Shelter, said the company’s employees “bring professionalism, compassion, thoughtfulness, ability, follow-through and consistency to the shelter, enabling Carpenter’s Shelter to provide better services to our homeless clients.”
The Potomac Riverboat Company won the Business Philanthropy Award in the small-business category for its work with the Fund for Alexandria’s Child at the Department of Human Services. Owner Charlotte Hall became involved in 2003, and since that time has been able to use the Cherry Blossom to double fundraising for the Fund for Alexandria’s Child. One event on the Cherry Blossom raised $25,000, and other area nonprofits have also benefited from having in-kind donations from the Potomac Riverboat Company. Other than the Fund for Alexandria’s Child, other organizations that have benefited from Hall’s generosity are the Alexandria City Public Schools, the Alexandria Volunteer Bureau, Inova Alexandria Hospital and ALIVE!
Deb Roepke, executive director of Computer CORE, won the award for executive service and Randy Kell, CEO of the Mark Winkler Company, won a lifetime achievement award.
“You might not know this about Randy, but his first love is working on old motorcycles,” said Lonnie Rich, chairman of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce. “You’ve got to love a guy who works on old motorcycles.”