Piet Dossche and Bob Shaw work together to support the United Way of Northwest Georgia.
COMPETITORS COME TOGETHER FOR THE COMMUNITY
Flooring executives are known to be intense competitors in business. But that doesn’t keep them from working together for the good of their community in the Flooring Belt of Northwest Georgia.
Indeed, top ﬂooring executives are among the strongest supporters of the United Way of Northwest Georgia, annually raising millions of dollars and contributing thousands of volunteer hours to the organization.
Mike Sanderson, vice president of marketing at Engineered Floors (EF), is the current board chairman for the local United Way. Over the years, other ﬂooring executives have served in the same capacity, as well as on the board. Julian Dossche, president of International Flooring Co. (IFC), will be the chairman next year.
The Engineered Floors team volunteered at a food bank: Mike Andersen, Karen Townsend, Isabel Pimentel, Mike Sanderson and Amy Anderson
Amanda Burt, president of the United Way of Northwest Georgia, noted that the organization is unique due to the large concentration of industry headquarters in the area. “Compared to my United Way peers in Georgia and the U.S., we are so fortunate to have an industry headquartered here. It really sets us apart. We have second and third generations of founders at the table with us.”
She noted that one-third of the organization’s donations come from individuals giving $10,000 or more, one-third from corporate giving, and one-third from individuals and through payroll deductions. In 2022, the group raised $4.15 million. Burt emphasized that 99 cents of every dollar stays in Whitﬁeld and Murray counties.
United Way is a 501c3 charitable organization and disburses funds to local agencies that support the community. Executives sit on an allocation committee to determine where to distribute money. These organizations include everything from the local Boys & Girls Club to a domestic violence shelter.
“They support life-changing organizations,” said Jamie Welborn, senior vice president of Mohawk Industries. “They help people in really tough situations but also provide for everyday things like aﬀordable daycare. They support agencies that help our associates have a better quality of life.”
The Mohawk United Way team: Lauren Sneary, Kevin Wright (Marketing Alliance Group), Amanda Burt, Jill Schubert, Jamie Welborn, Paul De Cock and Amy Ross
Welborn added that donating to the United Way is much more eﬃcient than trying to support these organizations independently. “They make it very easy and convenient for me to do my part. I know the money and my time are going to great causes and will be used very efficiently. There is no way I could make this type of impact by myself.”
It’s crucial that the money raised stays in the community. “When you make a donation to United Way, whether in Dalton, Ga. or Andalusia, Ala., your dollars are going to support partner organizations that are focused on the unique needs of that community,” said Curtis Callaway, director of community engagement and corporate philanthropy, Shaw Industries.
While the ﬂooring companies are ﬁerce competitors in the marketplace, they all come together for the benefit of the United Way and the community. “The legacy of success we’ve had in our community for 80-plus years is a testament to our industry and our industry leadership putting their competitive [business] aside and supporting the United Way,” Burt said.
EF’s Sanderson said it’s gratifying to work with his industry peers on this worthwhile effort. “Make no mistake, we are competitive. Yet when it comes to our community, we have always stood together every year to meet our common goal,” he shared. “Whether it’s Shaw, Mohawk, Engineered Floors or Marketing Alliance and Dalton Utilities, it has been generations of leadership of CEOs, CFOs, VPs, and managers that have always supported United Way and its mission to improve lives, inspire donors, and unite as a community.” He added, though, that the annual CEO Trike race is, in fact, a highly competitive event.
Dossche of IFC reported that working with others in the industry with the United Way is crucial. “By bringing these companies together, the United Way showcases the power of collective action. It’s not just about philanthropy; it’s about creating a lasting impact in the community where these companies operate,” he said.
What’s more, Dossche added that all the executives know that a strong community creates a strong workforce, and it’s in everyone’s interest to foster that. “The unity fostered by the United Way goes beyond proﬁt margins,” he said. “The businesses in the Flooring Belt understand that their futures are intertwined with the well-being of their community. The Flooring Belt community’s collaboration through the United Way serves as a model of how even ﬁerce competitors can come together for the greater good.”
Competition is the last thing on Callaway’s mind regarding the United Way. “Giving to United Way is one of the best means to impact the local community. That isn’t a strategy exclusive to one company. We can all support United Way without it being a competition. We’re pleased to see other large employers in the area grow their programs and involvement.”
Welborn noted that competition helps fuel eﬀorts, too. “It is pretty competitive as we always want to win, but it’s a friendly competition,” he said. “We have a lot of fun, raise money and awareness, and make some great friends.”
Flooring companies’ contributions to the United Way of Northwest Georgia go beyond money. Company employees volunteer at various agencies and in various activities. In fact, last month was the United Way’s annual Make a Diﬀerence Day, during which the organization hosted volunteer projects around the area. Mannington Phenix and Marketing Alliance Group were this year’s Make a Diﬀerence Day Premier Sponsors, each providing $5,000 in grant funding. Dalton Utilities, EF, Mohawk, and Shaw were community project sponsors. United Way of Northwest Georgia’s aﬃnity groups, Together Unidos, Women’s Leadership Council, Young Leaders Society, and Youth United had their projects. Projects ranged from ﬁxing up a playground, replacing ﬂooring in a crisis shelter, and installing Little Free Libraries.
“I love seeing all the local companies come together to make a difference in our community,” said Andrea Lanier, product management specialist for Mannington. “On Make a Diﬀerence Day, multiple organizations send employees to complete projects for those in need. It’s very humbling to watch these competitors work together to make our community a better place to live.”
The Mannington Phenix team enjoyed the Trike Race: Chase Carscallen, Andrea Lanier, Eric Sandoval, Joseph Ponders and Anthony Flores.
Companies encourage employees to contribute to the United Way through payroll deductions and other fundraising.
Lauren Sneary, senior director of communications at Mohawk, said the company encourages employees to get creative. “We want them to make the events their own,” she said. “It has to have an organic groundswell.” For example, employees recently created a silent auction of their own contributions, with prizes ranging from sports mementos to art. “We felt like this year was a banner year,” she added.
In fact, Welborn noted that the pledged 2024 Northwest Georgia campaign is up by more than seven percent from 2023 contributions.
Shaw kicks off its United Way eﬀorts each year with Spring Into Service, a two-month volunteer blitz that yielded over 3,300 volunteer hours this spring. “Our associates have the opportunity to interact with partner agencies and learn more about what they do,” said Shaw's Call-away. “We saw associate participation in the ﬁnancial portion of the campaign increase 16 percent despite challenging conditions. From a percentage standpoint, more people engaged with this year’s campaign, which is very encouraging as we continue emphasizing nationwide participation.”
Shaw’s trike team: Tatum Hackney, Matthew Moore, Rosa Rodriguez, Clark Hodgkins, Tim Baucom, Brenda Knowles, Kelley Fain, Babbi Trotter, Deanna Mathis, Bill Brueckner and Herb Upton; with Piet Dossche, 2022 Campaign co-captain
The key is for employees to see company leaders actively participating, noted EF’s Sanderson. “With the ongoing support of the United Way and Amanda Burt and her entire staﬀ, they help orchestrate and facilitate many of the corporate campaigns throughout the community at all hours of the day and night,” he said. “It’s also the support and guidance from leadership that’s communicated throughout their respective organizations to their employees supporting the efforts of United Way and answering the question, ‘What can I do to make a difference?’ Well, this is your opportunity.”
Working with the United Way of Northwest Georgia gives ﬂooring company executives a strong sense of pride in their community and also shows the community how committed the companies are to the area.
“It is certainly a sense of pride to be aﬃliated with any one of these amazing companies, yet it’s the example that each of them sets that demonstrates that we do care about the community together,” Sanderson said, adding that his favorite part of working with the United Way is, “The results!
Whether it’s one extra meal served or keeping the lights on for one more family, it’s your opportunity to make a difference.”
What’s good for the community is good for businesses, too. “Shaw’s CEO Tim Baucom often says that healthy businesses lead to healthy communities,” Callaway shared. “Shaw gives back because it’s the right thing to do, and investing in our community is good for our company.”
Added Burt, “The message to the community is that these companies are about more than just business and the bottom line. They are strongly committed to caring for their community and can do this by partnering with United Way. It’s great to sell ﬂooring and compete, but ultimately, it's all about investing back into your local community to ensure the workforce and community are healthy and thriving.”
BY THE NUMBERS, UNITED WAY OF NORTHWEST GEORGIA IMPACT
$4.15 million raised in 2022
16,591 people were provided with food assistance 54,784 meals were delivered to home-bound elderly
14,020 people received food, clothing or direct ﬁnancial assistance 28,000 books were given out
6,569 people reduced their long-term need for food, housing or utility assistance through counseling, life skills education or ﬁnancial counseling
5,971 children were provided with help to graduate high school on time with skills for careers and life
5,317 children participated in out-of-school programs
UNITED WAY OF NORTHWEST GEORGIA COMMUNITY PARTNERS, GRANTEES AND PROGRAMS
• American Red Cross
• Big Brothers Big Sisters
• Boehm Birth Defects Center
• Boy Scouts
• Boys & Girls Clubs
• Carter Hope Center
• Cross Plains Community Partner
• DEO Clinic
• Family Frameworks
• Family Support Council
• Friendship House
• Girl Scouts
• Meals on Wheels
• Murray County 4-H
• Murray County Developmental Center
• NWGA Family Crisis Center
• RossWoods Adult Day Services
• Teen Maze
• The GreenHouse
• The Salvation Army
• United Way Community Solutions
• United Way Volunteer Center
• Whitfield County 4-H
• Whitfield County - Dalton Day Care Center
UNITED WAY OF NORTHWEST GEORGIA BOARD OF DIRECTORS
*Mike Sanderson, Board Chair; Engineered Floors
*Allen Bentley, Benbrook, Inc.
Hank Blackwood, Dalton Utilities
Bill Brueckner, Shaw Industries, Inc.
Elizabeth Caperton, Barrett Properties
*Julian Dossche, IFC Floors
Emily Finkell, Engineered Floors
Mike Fromm, Shaw Industries, Inc.
Tatum Hackney, Shaw Industries, Inc.
*Landon Hair, Marketing Alliance Group
Bob Hardaway, Shaw Industries, Inc.
*Russell Headrick, Shaw Industries, Inc.
Tammy Herndon, Herndon Properties
Amy Kinard, Coldwell Banker Kinard Realty
Juan Martinez, Shaw Industries, Inc.
Deanna Mathis, Shaw Industries, Inc.
*Matthew Moore, Shaw Industries, Inc.
Gage Peeples, United Surface Solutions
Isabel Pimentel, Engineered Floors
Carlos Ramirez, Eclectic 79
Patti Renz, Coldwell Banker Kinard Realty
*Jonathan Sierra, Shaw Industries
*Jill Schubert, Mohawk Industries
Karen Townsend, Community Volunteer
*Jamie Welborn, Mohawk Industries, Inc.
Brent Williams, Shaw Industries, Inc.
*Kevin Wright, Marketing Alliance Group
Joe Young, Engineered Floors
Will Young, Engineered Floors
Monday, November 20, 2023
By Sharyn Bernard