Often, one act of kindness begets another. For D&H Distributing, the effect of sponsoring one child’s wish to go to Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando, Fla., to experience his favorite movie characters through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, and hosting the reveal party at the company’s Harrisburg, Pa., headquarters last year, was so profound it led to a commitment to fulfill every wish in Dauphin County for this fiscal year starting in August.
D&H employees loved the initial idea of the wish reveal and “they took it and ran with it,” says co-president Dan Schwab. “They decorated the entire company like Star Wars. When he [the wish recipient] walked in front of the building, there was Darth Vader and six Storm Troopers waiting for him.” Schwab tells me the entire company—750 people—stopped work to attend the reveal.
Employees, he says, “were going to their desks and taking their favorite souvenirs [from theme parks] and giving them to him, saying ‘I wanted you to have this.’ It was really a spontaneous, powerful event, because there was so much goodness involved.”
Schwab adds, “I’ve not been part of a more moving or emotional event. And to this day, nine months later, I have employees coming up to me on a regular basis saying, ‘I’ve been here 20 years. That was by far the most meaningful thing we’ve ever done.’”
So Schwab says it felt fitting, as the company finishes its 100th year of business with 17% year-over-year growth, and prepares to move to new headquarters in the same city, to continue giving back to the region D&H calls home by partnering with Make-A-Wish Philadelphia, Delaware, and Susquehanna Valley to facilitate wishes for children across Dauphin County for a full year. He says D&H will also host a reveal for one of those wishes in its new headquarters in the spring. “It’s our own thank-you to the community that supported us and treated us as family through all the years.”
This initiative continues a long tradition of D&H giving back through charitable and philanthropic works. For instance, D&H Cares is an employee-led foundation that chooses charities every quarter to work with. “We’re such a fabric of the community,” says Schwab. “We’ve been based at the same location for 70 years in the heart of Harrisburg, and we’ve got a lot of employees that have worked here for 20 and 30 years. It’s a family business. We run it like you would run your family, and that’s having the right personal and professional balance and also the right focus on your overall communities. So we’ve done lots of things, from building houses in downtown Harrisburg for Habitat for Humanity, [and] we’re typically the leading or largest company at all the local walks or fundraisers. It’s very, very active and it’s employee led.”
Schwab describes employee feedback to the year-long Make-A-Wish commitment as a “standing ovation. We’ve got wonderful feedback. I must have gotten a couple of dozen texts and emails within the first 20 minutes [with comments like] ‘Thank God that I work for a company like this’ [and] ‘What a wonderful commitment to our community.’”
He adds, “The good news is, it’s not [co-president] Michael [Schwab] or me; it’s the company. It’s the DNA of our organization. It really just reaffirmed what we believe in as a company.”
Schwab calls the whole experience of sponsoring Make-A-Wish humbling.
“Children with illnesses is the one thing that I think hits everyone, and we’re big believers that it’s better to give than to receive. So, having an organization that is so interested, so passionate about giving, it’s humbling to be able to represent a company like that.”
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