Giving Back *and* Paying it Forward

This year, Mary Beth and Dick Oakes from Business Furniture had an idea for a United Way campaign within their company.  What if they could further inspire their 95-member team with an incentive? With the Thanksgiving holiday timed to the company’s campaign season, Dick thought the offering of a turkey or ham to every staff member who donated to United Way was the perfect way to say “thanks for giving.”


“We are here to make a difference in our community,” says Mary Beth Oakes, “and our workplaces are only as good as the communities that surround us.”


Much to Dick and Mary Beth’s delight, 100 percent of the employees at Business Furniture responded to the call to donate back to their community, with contributions totaling $21,492.  But they didn’t just stop there. As Business Furniture’s campaign wrapped up, the many team members recognized that they wanted their incentives — those turkeys and hams – go to families in need rather than their own homes. Excitement around the idea grew, and United Way helped connect those employees to the Salvation Army Harbor Lights program. With that, on Thanksgiving Day, 100 people were served a special Thanksgiving meal, thanks to the generous employees of Business Furniture.


“Our staff members make me so proud as they didn’t just give back to their community – they paid it forward,” said Dick Oakes. “We hope all individuals feel compelled to donate, care, roll up their sleeves, get involved, and do the right thing for the community. Making a difference is a big deal – and it is possible.”


Next year, Dick is already thinking bigger. “It won’t be just be turkeys and hams next year,” he pondered. “There’s no telling what we will do and what we will accomplish together!”


Headquartered on Indianapolis’ west side and with an office in Dayton, Ohio, Business Furniture creates “healthy, high functioning work spaces that work for today and lean into tomorrow.” Business Furniture has supported United Way since 1951 and has been honored with United Way’s “Company that Cares” award. Dick Oakes is a former United Way of Central Indiana board member. Mary Beth Oakes currently serves on the boards of Community Health Network Foundation, Indy Chamber of Commerce, Pass the Torch for Women Foundation, Indy Reads and the Indianapolis Zoo.


Pictured:  (left) John Marsella and Dick Oakes from Business Furniture