This is a guest blog by Jon Savage
Volunteer work and philanthropic efforts have been an integral part of Pennoni’s core values since 1966. And even prior to joining the firm in 2005, I’ve always valued the importance of them in both business and personal life.
“Getting Involved” With Your Community
“Getting involved” with your community is straightforward, and fun in many ways, but also involves your day-to-day routines, church, children, and other activities. My interests include improving local conditions and applying my expertise to my volunteer efforts. Most importantly, I’ve always had a sense of giving back to individuals and organizations that have helped me. I believe, in my heart of hearts, that’s really the best message I can relay to folks who do want to get involved in their communities.
At the beginning of my career, after receiving my degree from Penn State and attempting to apply the expertise I had learned gaining a geography degree, I thought it might be useful to apply my planning skills to my local community where I grew up. As it turned out, there was a need on the local planning board for someone of my capabilities, even though I had just graduated with limited planning experience. While my tenure on the local planning board was about a year in length, I did learn many insights into local politics, and was able to contribute to objectives that the board was attempting to carry out and other areas of concern.
It was a real learning lesson for me, not only dealing with local friends and neighbors who had the same concerns I had, but also giving me some insights as to how local planning boards operated. Subsequent opportunities to assist and support my local community arose when local fundraising committees decided that I may have some contacts that would support their own mission. In fact, it really turned out to be making use of my established connections in the business community that, for all intents and purposes, wanted to help out just because they were good people as well. Nine times out of 10, it also amounted to attending many social events (golf tournaments, concerts, church activities, etc.) that led to establishing other, new relationships.
Once my wife and I decided to start a family, I quickly learned that children and other family activities were really a natural extension of not just my personal network, but also more opportunities to interact with other parents and their children as well. As they say, one thing leads to another, and raising children in many communities leads to other opportunities such as church, coaching, and related sports activities that naturally result in meeting lots of new people. And, of course, fundraising. I guess you could say my natural affinity to connect with others made it easy to continue to expand my community networks. For me, it was really easy to make new friends but also become vested in a common mission — one that everyone seemed interested in supporting. Doing things for the good of the community was really where I established all these relationships and hopefully benefited lots of individuals along the way.
When my children inevitably signed up for public school, our family quickly found a new set of friends that we enjoyed spending time with. I was asked to volunteer for a board membership to a local education foundation, which raised funds to support ancillary education programs, above and beyond what public sector funding was available. After serving several years on that particular board, I decided to run for the local school board and ended up serving three terms, lasting nine years in this elected position. I benefited the local student population and school district by volunteering, and it was also a significant learning experience for me. From a professional standpoint, I gained valuable insights into not only the internal operations of school districts, but also valuable contacts at the local, state, county, and other levels of government. It was really an exciting opportunity that I didn’t realize would be as beneficial to me as it was to the others I worked with.
Time to Take on a New Mission
When my children exited the local K-12 public school system, and I had a little bit more time on my hands, I decided to take on a new mission. I had always been interested and working with higher education institutions, and also had a sincere dedication to my alma mater, Penn State. When I was invited to meet the new president of the University, I jumped at the chance. Upon meeting and speaking with incoming President Barron, he quickly challenged me to “get involved.” I soon took him up on that request, and subsequently spent eight years on the Campus Advisory Board. It was, and continues to be, a great learning experience for me and is especially meaningful since my service is hopefully impacting students who I can directly relate to. I am currently still serving on the Penn State Brandywine Advisory Board as Chair and enjoying the opportunity to advance the campus strategic plan and other improvements that support the overall mission of the Campus Chancellor and staff.
Personally, I never really anticipated that “getting involved in my community” would be as natural, easy to support, or as personally educational as it turned out to be. Sure, it required a lot of time or energy on my behalf, but “getting involved” is just as easy as making yourself available to new opportunities, new friends, and new activities that interest you and your family. For me, it had everything to do with being myself and finding activities that I was passionate about supporting. As I like to say, if you’re open to suggestions and have a genuine interest in helping others, giving back is really easy to personally find time to do and accomplish results. In most cases, you’re already spending the time, so why not enjoy and support others in the same process?
In Summary, Why “Get Involved”?
- Personal satisfaction: Helping others by accessing your social and professional network is profoundly fulfilling and can potentially help others in their career path/journey. That’s a really cool thing to do for someone you may not even know, and you’ve made a friend for life!
- ROI/Time commitments: Believe or not, the time commitments are minimal and can be extremely helpful to others you assist.
- Good for business: By allowing yourself to be accessible to the community and individuals, you solidify your personal and corporate reputations, and that is always good for business. Clients and individuals always gravitate to people they trust and admire professionally, and business opportunities do result. Getting involved does just that for you and your company.
It’s really just that easy and it’s very fulfilling at the same time, and all the while learning new skill sets and establishing new personal and professional relationships.
So, what are you waiting for? Get involved!
About the Author Jonathan C. Savage
Jonathan C. Savage serves as a vice president at Pennoni and is responsible for the development of new business opportunities for the firm throughout the company’s geographic areas and engineering disciplines. Jonathan concentrates his efforts to attract new, growth-oriented clients in regional, national, and international marketplaces, and particularly for large energy and infrastructure-related projects. Jonathan is also responsible for maintaining relationships with a significant number of locally based clients.
Jonathan is a certified economic development professional with significant financial experience in the development of project performance and the relocation of regional, national, and international business prospects. He is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University, with expertise in land use planning, strategic growth, landscape architecture, grant writing, financial analysis, and economic development.
We would love to hear any questions you might have or stories you might share about the benefits of getting involved in your community.
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To your success,
Anthony Fasano, PE, LEED AP
Engineering Management Institute
Author of Engineer Your Own Success