Editor’s Note: Below is a testimonial on the importance of the United Way and its mission from Ford President of The Americas Joe Hinrichs. To make your pledge to this year’s United Way campaign, click here.
DEARBORN - The United Way has been touching lives in communities throughout America for more than 125 years, and I’d like to share a story about how the United Way has impacted me.
In early spring, I visited the Southeast Michigan headquarters for the United Way in downtown Detroit with Mark Fields and several other members of our leadership team. We were given a rare opportunity to listen in on some of the phone calls that were being taken at the organization’s call center. They were private conversations and we signed confidentiality agreements so I can’t share what I heard with you. What I can say is how moved I was by the experience.
Imagine being disabled and having your power shut off or not having enough money to put food on the table for your children. When you hear real people asking for help with such desperation in their voices, it strikes a chord in your body and serves as a reminder that we can all do more for our community.
A few months after that visit, I invited the entire North America leadership team to volunteer for a day of service during Ford’s Global Week of Caring at a children’s pre-school center in Detroit that is funded in part by the United Way. We came wearing our blue Ford t-shirts and asked what we could do to help. Three of the walls surrounding a courtyard where the children play were old and in dire need of paint so they asked us if we would paint them a bright sky blue color. Our team went to work, and our efforts really brightened up the place. This children’s center serves underprivileged kids who don’t typically see other people doing things for them. They don’t get new things. They don’t see bright colors. We were able to put smiles on their faces that day.
On another occasion, I visited a youth center in Detroit – also funded in part by the United Way – with members of the UAW leadership and our Ford Labor Relations team. In one section of the building there were about 50 kids, ages 8 to 15, learning to play chess. They asked me if I would play the best kid who was about 14 years old. I hadn’t played chess in a long time but I agreed to the challenge. Well, he beat me and you should have seen his face! All the kids gathered around us giving him high-fives because he just beat the president of Ford North America. It was a fun time, and I think it gave the kids a little more confidence in themselves.
Ford is doing well and the auto industry is coming back, but there are still a lot of people who need our help. Whether it’s through personal involvement or a monetary donation, it is so important to give back. Our employees are great contributors to so many charitable organizations, and I want to thank you for that. I would also like to ask everyone to please give some special consideration to the United Way. Southeast Michigan needs our help, and it’s important that Ford Motor Company sends a message that we care.
If you have a special story to tell about how the United Way touched your life, please share it with us in the comment section at the bottom of this article.