Greg Alexander

Success through giving back

Provident Bank, September 2005

Getting your employees involved in community service – seems like an easy concept, right? Select a charity, encourage your employees to donate time or money or sponsor a philanthropic event. Easy enough. Not so, says Josh Levinson of Charm City Run, a run/walk specialty company. “It’s not easy to do community service, but if you can find a way to help the community and help your business at the same time, it’s a win-win,” he says passionately.

Levinson says that it’s easy to say that no one in business wants to do community service. “For a business, the real questions is: Are we providing the vehicle and the organization necessary to motivate people to get involved? Usually, the answer is “no,” but if you provide these tools, your employees will respond.”

Levinson says that the inspiration for Charm City Run, which he founded three years ago with his wife, Kara, came via an Austin, Texas-based company, Run-Tex. “I met the owner, Paul Carrozza, and I wanted his life. He is so revered in the community, and he runs a business while always having his kids around,” says Levinson, a father of three.

Through the events that Charm City Run is involved in, over $400,000 is donated to the community annually, and the company also gives discounts to customers who donate to charities such as Toys for Tots and Shoes for the Homeless. Levinson notes that over 99 percent of the marketing budget goes to benefit charitable causes, and he strives for the company to be a leader in charity contributions. The key to such dedication, he says, was a commitment from the beginning to focus on charity.

“When Kara and I decided to pursue this venture, we said that charity and community involvement had to be a priority.” Levinson says that even before the company launched, he had his eyes on a particular event – the St. Joseph Medical Center Run to Remember, which commemorates the lives lost on September 11, and pays tribute to Baltimore City police and firefighters.

“The event was perfect for us because while it helps the community, it’s also a race that we can direct and manage, creating a business avenue for us,” says Levinson, adding that his dream was to create a business where business goals could be reached through community investment.

However, no small business can get off the ground without some much-needed capital. “You hear many banks advertise about small business lending, but when it comes to the loan process, there are few banks that will help,” Levinson says. So, he and his wife turned to Provident Bank. “They are a regional business, which is nice. We’re a ‘mom and pop’ business, so we have a duty to patronize other local businesses. This is something that I take very seriously,” says Levinson. “I’m sure that Provident had some uneasy feelings at first, but once they heard our idea and plan, they believed in us.”

That belief has allowed Charm City Run to flourish, all while giving back to the community. “Whenever we do charity events, I think: If our support ‘pays us forward’ and helps us in business, that’s great. But even if it doesn’t, that’s OK. It’s still the right thing to do, and it helps me sleep at night,” he says.

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