As we enter into 2012, now is the time to set our priorities straight. Congress is due back next week to start the business of 2012. Unfortunately, this being a presidential election year, not much heavy lifting will be done from Congress as they jockey to get re-elected. This is not something new but happens every 2 to 4 years and unfortunately good legislation and great opportunities are missed by Congress.
With the beginning of a new year there comes an opportunity to give back. For Congress, this could mean something as simple as passing good legislation that will have a positive impact on every American citizen. With Congress’ approval rating at all-time low, now more than ever they should be looking to do the right thing.
When I came to Washington I truly believed that I came here to make a difference. And in doing so I knew that meant more than just doing my job, it meant utilizing my skills and contacts to help others in need. At Miller Wenhold Capitol Strategies, we take that mission to give back very seriously and donate hundreds of hours every year to giving back to those in need. My business partner has created an annual charity basketball game that pits Members of Congress versus lobbyists and raises tens of thousands of dollars every year for local underprivileged children. He’s raised over $600,000 that has been used to help countless children in the Washington, D.C. area. The charity that I created, the Capitol PurSuit Drive, collects gently used business clothing from lobbyists, Members of Congress, congressional staff, the White House and other businesses in Washington, and gives these donations to Americans trying to reenter the workforce.
My goal in creating this charity was simple. I believe that if I could help one person find a job that my time in Washington made a positive impact on a fellow American’s life. It’s amazing how a person lights up when they’re given the needed business clothing that will allow them to compete for employment in a tight job market. I truly believe that my charity gives people a hand up, not a handout. The event is held once a year for four hours on Capitol Hill and every year we have 5-10,000 items donated in just four hours. Over six year span we have been able to collect over 50,000 items of business clothing, valued at over $2.1 million, that has been given back to American’s in need.
When I created this charity I did for no other reason but to help others but along the way some very cool things happened to me. I was named by the Washington Post as a top business person in the city that gave back, tagged as “the lobbyist with a heart”, and also awarded the Presidential Call to Service award, which is the country’s highest award for citizen volunteerism. While these accolades and awards are nice, they pale in comparison to handing a suit over to somebody who’s never owned one and seeing the look in their eyes. One of the best days of my life was when I gave a nice suit to a recipient and they looked at the suit, looked at me and put his hand on my shoulder and said “thank you Mr. Wenhold, you gave me the best gift in the world, the gift of hope.” It doesn’t get any better than that.
Everyone should make contributing to charity a part of their business plan. That includes Fortune 500 companies all the way down to the mom-and-pop businesses that are the backbone of America. For example, a company we do business with (Primeau Productions) is extremely active in giving back. They work with local rescue missions, the Humane Society, the Napoleon Hill Foundation, and St. Jude’s Hospital. At MillerWenhold, we pride ourselves on our philosophy of giving back and making a difference and proud to associate ourselves with other companies that do the same.
As Congress comes back to Washington from their winter break, they might do well to take a page out of our playbook and remember what they each came to Washington for. Making a difference is what they were elected to do so now it’s time for them to step up and give America hope once again.