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The giving spirit is inherent to western Michigan — and Wolverine World Wide Inc. employees — according to Blake Krueger.
“What’s interesting about Grand Rapids is it’s the second-most-giving city in America,” said the chairman, president and CEO. “On a per-capita basis, there are more donations in support of charities and foundations [here] than in any other city in America, except for Salt Lake City. That attitude also permeates our company.
“I’ve also tried to put more emphasis on that over the past five years because it’s so important,” Krueger added. “As a company, we’ve done very well. Our people are doing very well. We owe it to our communities, wherever they are, to give back — and it’s fun.”
Krueger said Wolverine either directly or via the efforts of its employees is involved in a number of charities related to health, the environment, children and economic assistance for those in need.
For example, more than 50 Wolverine employees serve as tutors each week in the Grand Rapids school system, something Krueger is particularly proud of. “It’s efforts like that where people are giving their time on a weekly basis that are so humbling and astounding,” he said.
Personally, Krueger said, he also sets aside time to work with charitable groups. He serves as vice chairman of the Two Ten Footwear Foundation and is slated to become chairman of the organization when Jim Salzano’s term comes to an end next year. He also sits on the board of the Heart of West Michigan United Way and has agreed to lead the group’s fundraising campaign next year.
“If you’re going to commit to something, you’ve got to give 115 percent,” he said. “That’s what I do. And our goals are always the same: Raise more and more and more so this organization can help more people.”
And while Krueger does make significant monetary contributions to a variety of causes, the executive said money is rarely enough to make an impact. Often the most valuable commodity is time.
“Sometimes the charities need your time and counsel even more than they need your money,” he said. “It’s not always easy, but it’s the right thing to do. And you can make a real difference.”