Charitable Commitments Can Bond a Self-Storage Facility With Its Community
A guest installment by Robert Madsen, President, U-Lock Mini Storage Group
It’s all too common and easy to get facility focused in our daily self-storage tasks and duties. With buildings to keep in tip-top shape, strategic marketing plans to implement, and a continual focus on serving current customers and trying to win new ones, it’s easy to lose focus on the community beyond the lot line. But beyond our fences and walls is an entire community of businesses and citizens. This is a community that we belong to, and it’s important that we support it and help.
I’m passionate about my community and believe it’s our responsibility as a business to do our part to help out. I’m not implying a need for grandiose donations but more an importance to help when you can, as you can. This can be gifts in kind or volunteer time, but whatever it is, it’s about an offering to community. At U-Lock Mini Storage, we are fortunate that we can help and it’s truly amazing how often we are touched with unexpected surprises and humbling rewards.
In one such case, we recently celebrated our annual Customer Appreciation Day at one of our facilities. We held it on a busy June weekend and invited everyone we could. All were welcome to come and enjoy prize drawings, gourmet hot dogs and smokies, treats and goodies, and just a great, relaxing lunch on us. We rolled out a brand new barbecue to cook the hot dogs and grill the onions. The barbecue was also the featured item of our prize drawing at the end of the day.
Each year, we like to tie in support to a charitable cause like the local food bank or the Canadian Cancer Society Cops for Cancer “Tour de Rock.” This year we supported the local chapter of the Soroptimist International of the Americas Inc., a women’s support organization with a current focus on helping seniors who are downsizing and teen mothers in need of furnishings and other assistance.
From the start of the event, our site was beaming with energy and the fresh smells of grilled hot dogs and sautéed onions. Customers past, present and future happily swung by to enjoy a grilled lunch. Almost everyone took a moment to sit back, relax, enjoy and chat with one another. We even had two local musicians perform on vocals and guitar to add a perfect complementary rhythm to the event. The mood and setting were perfect.
However, the real surprise for all of us was inside the facility. The Soroptimist group had organized a grand celebration of their donated locker and the items collected and donated. A large gathering was present, and my manager and I were asked to be present. To our surprise we were part of the ribbon cutting, awarded a recognition plaque, and found ourselves in front of the local paparazzi with prominent community leaders, including the nearby mayor and the leading credit union in the area.
What a great event! The kind words and cheers of thanks for our donated locker were unnecessary but well received. Ironically, we have always felt our part is small in that we supply a locker and step back while teams and teams of volunteers and citizens do all the work. Little did we know how appreciated and essential to their operation we are.
Throughout the day, nearly 200 people visited our self-storage site. Many of them were new faces who came to celebrate, donate and support the Soroptimists. Others were past and current tenants. There were even a few folks who were just walking or driving by and needed a break.
Among the crowd was a young girl who sat with her 18-month-old daughter enjoying a couple of hot dogs and listening to the live music. She was 18 and shared her story of how she accidentally became pregnant and decided to keep and raise her daughter. Coming out of the hospital, she was on her own with her little girl and very uncertain of how to make ends meet. It was the Soroptimists who came to help and donated all the furnishings and supplies to help her cope with her big life changes. In turn, she was extremely thankful and appreciative as she had visited the locker to gather items that really assisted her in coping with the challenges of being an independent young mother. That alone made our day and was great for all of us to be a part of!
Later that day, the young mother and her daughter won second prize in our drawing. She received a fully stocked picnic basket and $100 dollars in local grocery store gift cards. The top prize barbecue went to a gleaming fellow who is rumored to be inviting all the staff over for an upcoming party at his home.
It was an amazing day with fantastic and genuine contributions from U-Lock staff and family. We have discussed the event and how rewarding it was to hear the story of the young mother. Moreover, we have heard from others in the community who were appreciative of the event and our support in the community. Surprisingly, many of them weren’t even in attendance that day but had heard about it from others.
It’s hard to accurately convey the feelings of that day and how great it was, but I encourage other self-storage facilities and staff to take on a community cause that is near and dear to them and help out in any way they can. The unintended rewards can be very humbling and surprising.
Please share stories about the rewarding events you have hosted and the organizations with which you are involved by submitting comments in the area below. You can also contribute your thoughts about the benefits of paying it forward and ideas for charitable fundraisers by joining the conversation on Self-Storage Talk, the industry’s largest and most active online community.
Robert Madsen is president of the U-Lock Mini Storage Group and a director of the Canadian Self Storage Association . Born into the industry, he has more than 25 years of professional experience. Robert started in the business with plunger, broom and hammer in hand, progressing to manager and, ultimately, executive. He is also a moderator on Self-Storage Talk , going by the username Madman.
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