Mary and Brian Hannon, director of marketing at Aspen Surgical and vice president at Moore & Bruggink Inc. respectively, are public servants at heart. After attending college out-of-state and living in Minneapolis, Mary and Brian settled their family in Grand Rapids, where Mary is from. “When we moved back, I was looking for a way to reconnect with my community and to become involved,” she says. Mary joined Heart of West Michigan United Way’s young professionals group, where she helped to plan volunteer opportunities and mobilize her peers. “I was lucky enough to have Brian join me in many of these activities,” she says. “Through our volunteer activities, Brian and I were able to see firsthand the good work that United Way and their partner agencies are doing in the community.”
Mary went on to join United Way’s 2012-13 Campaign Cabinet and is a current member of the Marketing Advisory Council and Board of Directors. Mary and Brian are also Leadership Circle givers. “Having had this experience, we knew that when we became a little older and had the means, we wanted our dollars as well as our time to go to United Way,” she says. We sat down to talk to Mary about volunteering, community needs, and what it means to give back.
Why United Way?
We choose to give to United Way because we want our money to do as much good as possible in the community. We appreciate that United Way carefully examines the biggest needs in West Michigan and then partners with agencies whose mission and action plans best address those needs. In this way, we know our contributions are going to good use.
When you give, what do you get back?
When Brian and I first started to volunteer I was floored by how much we actually gained from the experience. Suddenly with the issues, came a human face and a glimpse into their experience. "Walk a mile in their shoes" was no longer a cliché. It meant that we could better understand what the elderly, veterans, or hungry faced. It taught us not to judge, but rather to seek to understand somebody else's circumstances and point of view. Our lives are forever changed, and we are so grateful for the experience. And I think it demonstrates that when we give back to the community with our time, talent, or monetary treasure, everyone ends up winning because we have a stronger, more cohesive community.
This interview has been edited and condensed.