A Tale of Two Giant Corporations

Wednesday, April 10th, 2013

by Dennis DiPaolo

I’ve been waiting since August to tell you a story about how much I hate doing business with mega-corporations.  Then, in January, one of them messed up my bad attitude with a great piece of charity.

Last August, High Hopes asked us to supply a pool for a local family in need.  I got to work making the arrangements and raising donations.  By the time we finished, we were able to provide $12,000 worth of products and labor at no cost to the family or to High Hopes.

The donations were easy.  Every single company owned by a human being stepped up.  Two companies (Robelle and Jonas) gave us more than I requested.  Sharkline gave us a free pool.  Swimline gave us a liner.  Aqua Comfort gave us a free $4,200 heat pump!   Pools by Us Plus did the pool installation for free, and got Fortin Pool Water to donate the water.  I was only turned down by one company – a multi-billion dollar international company.

And I didn’t stop with the initial refusal locally.  I tracked down their international head of corporate giving.  She was nice, but I didn’t want enough money for her office.  She talked to the international head of pool products.  He said no.  It was an interesting experience.  The individuals, to whom my request was real money, out of real pockets, were all great.

Then, I got to learn another lesson.  Jeanne and I attended the North American Dealer Conference for Lonza Pool Products in Jamaica in January (we don’t work all the time).  Lonza makes Baquacil, Poolife, HTH, Baqua Spa, and many other chemical brands.

Lonza invited us to help with the P.E.A.C.H. Project – to rehab a shelter for troubled and abused girls about 20 minutes from our hotel.  I gave a donation, because I am too old, fat, and sedentary for serious manual labor.  Jeanne got up early and worked there for two long mornings.  I am very proud of her – she worked very hard in terrible conditions.  Corrugated tin roofs, cinder block walls, tiny windows, no air, no electricity, stifling heat.  As Jeanne noted when the PEACH volunteers in their PEACH tee shirts came back to the hotel; dirty, sweaty, and tired:  you could hear hotel guests in the lobby say “Don’t take that Peach tour – it looks really hard!”

So 90 people (mostly owners of pool stores) from our group of 400 volunteered, plus 30 from the hotel staff.  Lonza sent their plant maintenance people from Atlanta with a 20’ container of toilets, fans, pillows, mattresses, materials, and tools.  We dealers brought sheets, towels, and pillowcases in our luggage. There was electricity running to the home, but it had been vandalized where it entered the building.  However, we had pool guys who deal with electricity all the time, to fix that.

By the time we were done, the girls had power, new toilets, new bedding, fresh paint everywhere, new ceiling, working fans in their dorm rooms, and more.

Lonza paid a lot for their materials and even labor – it’s against the law to allow an employee to work for free on a company-run charity.  Writing a check is easy.  They organized this and executives got their hands dirty.  So sometimes the big guys can be the good guys.

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