Archive for June, 2009

Amway a finalist for the Governor's Service Awards

Monday, 29 June, 2009

Following is a post from Michelle Meulendyk, a guest blogger from our Corporate Citizenship team.

Last week I found myself a the Governor’s Mansion of all places.

Amway was nominated by KaBOOM!, for the Governor’s Service Award. This is the second year in a row that one of our nonprofit partners nominated us. The award recognizes “individuals, organizations and companies that are working to improve the lives of others here in Michigan.”

The Service Awards were presented at the Governor’s mansion in Lansing. Which is pretty cool, no matter your political persuasion. After the hour drive and I.D. check at the door, we walked into the backyard of the mansion and the program began. One by one, each nominee was called to the stage. Among them was Dawnlynn Suttorp, Amway Volunteer Coordinator.

As the Governor and the emcee, began to speak about the nominees and what this award means, it brought to the forefront just how many people, organizations and companies here in Michigan are willing to give of their time, talents and treasures to help others.

As Dawnlynn stood on the stage, I began to realize how much our employees do. Week after week, we see Amway employees mentoring, helping at local camps, building playgrounds, cooking meals for families with children in the hospital and so much more.

It’s really humbling to remember how special these volunteers are and what a great place we work for. Amway truly has a commitment to our communities here in West Michigan and around the globe. And while we didn’t win this year, recognition by our community partners means so much.

Amway Team

Dawnlynn and Carrie

One day, One completed Playground

Tuesday, 23 June, 2009

Just the night before and into the early morning hours, thunderstorms producing plenty of lightning covered most of the lower half of Michigan. Sure we expect this type of weather throughout the summertime, but this day was set for fulfilling a Thanksgiving wish that our Vice President, Dana Boals found in the newspaper.  A local Girl Scout troop submitted a heartfelt wish that Congress Elementary School would receive a new playground.

Amway through the One by One Campaign for Children, for the fourth time in West Michigan, partnered with the nonprofit KaBOOM!, and now Grand Rapids Public Schools, to turn that wish into a reality.

I arrive shortly after 8 am.  The sun is shining and as I approach there is a hum of energy.   As I go in to the scene, there is a rhythm.  It is a rhythm of hundreds of volunteers from Amway Manufacturing.  Add to the mix the Girl Scout Troop, people from Grand Rapids Public Schools, KaBOOM! and the surrounding neighborhood.  All focused on a goal to not only build, but complete a playground all before 2:30 in the afternoon.

I sign in, and chose a tag to put my name on.  Each name tag has a sticker.  There are ladybugs, guerillas, camels, dolphins, on and on and on.  Mine?  It is a puppy.  Cool!  Everyone is checking out each others name tags to see what they have.  As we’re greeting each other, we find out these stickers determine what team and what job we will be focusing on for the day.

The opening ceremonies are going great, the Girl Scouts are leading us through “warm up exercises” for fun and as I look around I see the Vice President of Amway Manufacturing Dave Buttrick joining in with the side bends.  He too has a name tag and will be put to work.

Next, through the sound system, they are calling out the jobs.  And all of us with a puppy sticker?  We hoot and cheer as we’re informed we’re going to mix cement by hand!  We are all summoned to Don, our Team Captain.  First order of business?  Shovel 12 inches down around the entire boarder.  Really?  But it’s hot out and the border is big so the task looks daunting! So we all literally dig in.  The music starts, the tempo and the pace, the entire rhythm of everyone working together for something that will bring the community joy for years to come, and give children a great place to play is making all this work fun.

As we’re digging, equipment is being put together by different teams, the build site is being prepped, children are painting artwork, picnic tables and benches are being crafted with care.  Each one is sweaty, dirty and smiling.

Unbelievably, sometime long before lunch (I’ve lost track of time), they are ready for us to begin mixing cement.  Wheelbarrows, shovels, hoes, water, bags and bags of cement each small but weighing a mighty 80 pounds each surrounds our team.  It’s a serious group who isn’t afraid to lift, wave at the dust, and get sloppy.  I take a moment to look around and everyone is wearing their sweat and dirt with pride.  Especially those who team up with a new found acquaintance to haul some 210 cubic yards of mulch on to the new playground.

Sometime during lunch, the sizable new playground is complete.  WOW!  And just as everyone is pitching in to clear the scraps, hang the artwork, and broom the walkways clear with a passion, there is a roll of thunder, a smile, a hug, a wiping of the brow, then rain.  Once again, I feel honored to work for Amway, where the legacy of 50 years of caring is solid, rock solid.

One day, One completed Playground_woodchips

One day, One completed Playground_working

One day, One completed Playground_slide

One day, One completed Playground

Food, face-painting, and a lot of fundraising!

Thursday, 18 June, 2009

The rain didn’t stop the hundreds of walkers who showed up last night to support the Easter Seals Walk With Me event. And what an event it was! So many dedicated employees, family members, and friends enjoyed a fun-filled event at the John Ball Park and Zoo complete with food from Yesterdog, face-painting, and lots of fundraising.

I was a little concerned about the weather…it seems like we’ve had such beautiful sunshine for the walk in years past. Luckily, there was no down-pour just a little misting, and every walker marched on with smiles on their faces. It was so motivating to see and feel the positive energy from the crowd. The walk looped around the park and landed us right in the zoo where we got to enjoy frozen treats from Culver’s!

What a week for Amway Global and Easter Seals! Not only did the walk raise over $62,000 to help the organization, but earlier this week, some of our favorite soccer players spent some special time with kids from Easter Seals centers in California! Check out Robin’s blog for the whole story and pictures!

Aw! Me and my little friend, Ava, and her pretty pink butterfly.

Walk With Me … Today!

Wednesday, 17 June, 2009

For those of you in the West Michigan area, please join us for the Easter Seals walk this evening at John Ball Park Zoo. Don’t let the threat of rain scare you away!

The pre-event activities start at 5:00 p.m. with onsite registration, food and festivities. We’ll hear from 10-year old Joseph, the Easter Seals Michigan 2009 Child Ambassador, along with other Honorary Walk With Me Ambassadors.

The walk starts at 6:30, and the zoo opens up at 7:00, free to all walkers and families. We had a great time with my kids last year, especially seeing the new lion exhibit. There have been a lot of new experiences added to the zoo in the last couple years. That alone is worth checking out.

Easter Seals is Amway Global’s primary One by One partner in the US, with IBOs participating in walks around the country and Amway Global as a National Presenting Sponsor.

Amway helped to launch this event in Grand Rapids in 2005, and each year it gets better. More sponsors, more walkers, more things to do and see, and more money raised for a great cause.

So please join us!

Behind the scenes in Amway's hometown

Wednesday, 10 June, 2009

This blog is supposed to be about what IBOs and employees are doing for One by One.  But there is another story worth sharing about Amway’s hometown and the impact its founding families have had on economic growth and the quality of life here.

In Grand Rapids, it’s pretty well known how much the DeVos and Van Andel families have invested in our community. We pretty much take it for granted, and you even hear some people grumbling about seeing their names on buildings and recognition plaques.

But when our global distributors were in town for Founders Council and Executive Diamond Council meetings a couple of weeks ago, I was reminded of the “bigger picture.”

We gave our guests an option to use some of their down time to take a bus tour around the city. Early on, we didn’t expect a big turnout because most international visitors like to go shopping, play golf or taste the local cuisine.  However, several hundred guests signed up for the tour.

Besides showing them a very quaint and vibrant downtown Grand Rapids, we pointed out some of the anchors of economic growth and how the DeVos and Van Andel families helped to creating positive change in the area.

Amway owns two hotels, one renovated and built in 1982 and the other opened in 2007. The Amway Grand Plaza Hotel was a catalyst for growth in Grand Rapids in the early ’80s and was part of a concerted effort to bring more meeting and convention business to the area.

But Jay Van Andel and Rich DeVos’ commitment was beyond underwriting the hotel…they and other community leaders invested time and energy in mobilizing support for the rehabilitation of downtown Grand Rapids. They were actively engaged in the revitalization of their hometown.

We took the IBOs by the Van Andel Arena, a 12,000-seat facility that the Van Andel family gave the lead gift for in 1996. Dick DeVos co-chaired Grand Action, which generated the local community and government support and investment needed to build the Arena and later DeVos Place.

The arena has spurred millions of dollars in investment in the surrounding area since then. I remember living in California at the time it was built, and each time I would come home for Christmas or in the summer, I would see more restaurants, more nightlife and more shops opening up around it.

Then there is the DeVos Place Convention Center, opened in 2003, which has more than a million square feet of exhibition space and is drawing conventions and large meetings that support local jobs and local businesses.

But the crowning achievements and legacies of the families are tied up in two projects: a new Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, which is going up as I type, and the Van Andel Institute, a world-class bio-medical research center that focuses on cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

These projects and others in the medical area have transformed our community, which has been hit hard by the downturn in the economy, especially in the auto industry and manufacturing over the past decade. They give the Grand Rapids community a unique distinction as a destination for leading medical research and care.

Of course, the DeVos and Van Andel families are not solely responsible for economic growth in our region. They would be the first to name others who gave time and dollars to make projects happen. Grand Rapids is fortunate to have business leaders who share a vision for making our community stronger, like the DeVos and Van Andel families, Pat and Peter Cook, Fred and Lena Meijer, Peter Wege and many others. And Grand Rapids has had strong leadership from the likes of Dick Gillette, Lyman Parks … I could name a lot of people here.

As an Amway employee, and one focused on corporate citizenship, it is good to know that our leaders feel strongly about investing in the communities where they do business. And they have passed these values along to the next generation that is now running Amway.

Perhaps more importantly, they share these values with the millions of distributors who participate in the Amway business and define what it stands for in the next 50 years. It’s not just talking the talk, but walking the walk, by making a real commitment to making life better for others.

A True Inspiration

Friday, 5 June, 2009

Another great guest blogger telling us about last week’s Special Olympics games. This one is by Robin Luo from Amway China, who is working with us on temporary assignment. – Jesse

At 5:30 am on May 30, it was chilly at Amway headquarters in Ada. Thirty-five employees gathered in the west parking lot, looking forward to a day of passion, achievement and life-transformation. These were the volunteers for Special Olympics Michigan 2009 State Summer Games, held in Central Michigan University.

This is the third year that Amway employees volunteer in the games through One-by-One Campaign.

My name is Robin. I came from China on a short-term assignment in the Corporate Citizenship department. As one of the volunteers for the swimming event, I was honored to witness the perseverance and optimism of the athletes, which will definitely be kept deep in my heart, for a long time.

The backstroke competition was the first to start. Before each match, athletes could get into the water to prepare themselves. Some players needed assistance from our volunteers. But most of them chose to make a splendid dive to draw the audience’s attention and applause. When it came to the announcement of their names, all athletes proudly waved to the audience. You could not see any difference between them and us, from the smiles of confidence on their face.

“Swimmers, on your mark…. Go!” Each time these words were announced, the whole swimming area would be filled with cheering, enthusiasm and encouragement. Each swimmer tried their best to stretch arms and legs in the water, to fight for the medals and to enjoy the game.

Their motions might not be the most standard and efficient ones. They might have just learned how to swim and not be able to tell the difference between the backstroke and the breaststroke yet. Sometimes they didn’t even realize that they should turn around and swim back to complete the race until our volunteers reminded them.

But their attendance and participation meant everything. We might never understand how difficult it is to complete a 50-meter swimming event with intellectual disabilities. But all these athletes finished their race brilliantly. It was more a race against themselves than against their peers. It was all about faith and courage.

When I looked back to our volunteers, they moved me in the same way. They looked after the swimmers with care both in and out of the water, trying to protect their heads from being harmed by hitting the wall and inspiring the athletes to complete the game, especially for those who fell behind. Throughout the day I was immersed in hearty words of encouragement and uninterrupted applause. Their dedication was an immeasurable motivation for the athletes.

I didn’t have the opportunity to attend other events where Amway employees volunteered (Softball Throw, Standing Long Jump, Bowling, Special Events and Wheelchair Competition). But from the eyes of our athletes, full of joy, self-confidence and satisfaction at the accomplishment of their race, I can imagine all the Amway volunteers did an excellent job.

There is an old Chinese aphorism which says, “Make a gift of a rose, and fragrance will linger in your hands.” Doesn’t it match the fact perfectly, that volunteering does as much for us as for those in need?

Swimming about to begin

The moment before the race

All smiles before the race

Hugs at the award ceremony

Cheering them on

Amway employees provide a multi-cultural experience

Monday, 1 June, 2009

This post about Multicultural Day at Southeast Academic Center was submitted by Aaron Van Andel, intern for the Corporate Citizenship Department. — JH

For many years now, Amway has organized a Multicultural Day for 5th grade students at its partner school, Southeast Academic Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Amway employees of different ethnic backgrounds volunteer a portion of their day with the students sharing the history and fast facts of their county. After the presentations, they engage students in a craft or game that’s common to their country’s culture.

Angela Nelson and I organized Multicultural Day this year, which was held last Friday for Miss Northern’s 5th grade class.

On the agenda were four presentations, each given by an Amway employee of a different ethnic background. The first was Manuel Dipres from Rules Administration, presenting on behalf of the Dominican Republic. Manuel was born in the Dominican Republic and spent five years there before moving to New York. In his presentation, Manuel provided interesting facts about the country and talked to the kids about the number one sport there: baseball. At the end Manuel became a fan favorite by leaving the kids with baseball cards to take home.

Next, Prince Parocaron from Business Intelligence provided a look into India, where he had spent more than twenty years of his life. The kids were impressed by the number of people who lived in India and the many different attractions. Prince ended the presentation with an entertaining video of his son and daughter dancing to traditional Indian music.

Prince’s presentation was followed by an international lunch for. The students ate foods from three of the four countries covered that day (with a snack reserved later for the fourth country). The main dish was rice (steamed and fried) and chicken chop suey to give the kids a taste of Chinese cuisine. To drink, mango juice was served to coincide with Indonesia and for dessert flan was served to give a flavor of the Dominican Republic.

Lunch gave way into a presentation of Indonesia by Sri Soekaremoen from Corporate Communications with the help of Jennie Wu , also from Corporate Communications. Not very many kids knew where to find Indonesia on the map but they did know it’s where you can find the world’s largest lizard, the Komodo Dragon. Sri also came with a puppet show for the kids who participated in a story about Timon and Pumba from the Lion King.

The final presentation was on China. Rex Tsui from Market Research and Robin Luo from Corporate Citizenship gave a very knowledgeable presentation. The students were excited to hear about the panda but were a bit disappointed to find out that it actually does not know any kung fu as it did in the movie. The final activity was to teach the kids how to use chop sticks to pick up gummy bears and to learn a nifty trick.

Following the last presentation, students were served Samosa, a popular Indian snack, which ended up being the highlight of the food due to its spicy, green pepper sauce. Amazingly, a majority of the kids enjoyed how hot it was, except for one unfortunate boy who upon tasting it immediately ran to the nearest sink for some water.

At the end of the day, the students learned a lot about the many lands and cultures our world has to offer. Both presenters and students alike enjoyed the experience, providing yet another successful day for the One by One Campaign.

Manuel talks about the Dominican Republic

Prince talks about India

Break for multicultural cuisine

Sri on Indonesia

Shadow puppet show

Chinese lessons with Rex

Robin teaching chop sticks

Aaron with Mrs. Northern's Class