It didn’t take long for Paul Hardy to realize how important United Way is to The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. In fact, that happened shortly after he arrived as an engineer 37 years ago.
In retrospect, when Paul asked himself, “Why did I get involved? How did I get interested in United Way?” the answer that emerged was his exposure to Goodyear’s shared value of caring for its communities.
“I saw people with a philanthropic mindset at Goodyear and how many of them were significant contributors. It had an impact.”
He finds this influence on him continuing through the Dorothy O. Jackson Society, named for the beloved community activist and former deputy mayor for the city of Akron. The Society recognizes the generosity of Summit County’s diverse and dynamic minority community in the United Way.
For her part, Dorothy O. Jackson continues to have an impact on the Society that bears her name as, despite retirement, she continues to work tirelessly for the community.
“Every time we have a meeting and she’s there, it’s like we’re making history,” Paul says.
Perhaps a large part of the reason Paul is so susceptible to the influence of people who work hard and give back is due to the way he was raised, growing up on a farm in Northampton County in rural North Carolina. His father was a sharecropper who was known for his charitable deeds as the country came out of the Depression.
“One of the things he did was collaborate with the landowner to get food—because many people didn’t have food at that time—and then driving his truck, he delivered food to them,” Paul says. “So I saw how he had a really giving spirit.”
But this influence wasn’t limited to the stories Paul heard growing up. He was taught to follow in his father’s footsteps.
“There were farmers who didn’t have all the tools they needed, so my father would actually have us harvest their crops first before doing ours. He didn’t have much but he gave of what he had, so that was something that was instilled in all of us.”
So too was the importance of collaboration for the sake of the greater good.
Paul’s ancestors, who were slaves, are buried on that farm. The man his father worked for and would later rent from—the one with whom he partnered to deliver food to the hungry—was the descendant of the slave-master over that land.
As if he weren’t already destined to give selflessly, Paul made a friend when he first moved to the area. Living in Cuyahoga Falls without a car, he caught a ride from the Falls Akron Lodge with a Massachusetts native named Heinz Pedde who also started at Goodyear in January 1978. They carpooled through May of that year and not once would Heinz take money for gas or the inconvenience.
“All he asked is, if someone else ever needed my help, that I be willing to do the same thing.”
Given all this—Paul’s personal history, his experiences since joining Goodyear—it is only fitting that the first signature event he oversaw for the Dorothy O. Jackson Society shared a theme with Paul’s own life: “The Power of Giving.” While this phrase often implies the power is only directed toward those who are in need, Paul has a wealth of experience with the impact that a “philanthropic mindset” can have on everyone around you.
Paul put this mindset to the test during last summer’s United Way’s Day of Action at Camp Y-Noah. With hundreds of Goodyear associates participating, Paul took his 15-person crew on a mission to clear a fence line, which seemed like a small task on paper. In reality, they were staring down a half-mile of growth that had been untouched for years.
“We couldn’t see the end of the fence,” Paul says. “I told the people at the camp, ‘We’ll do what we can.’”
Armed with weed whackers and chainsaws and other tools, their small but mighty band of volunteers went to work, chopping and cutting until the end was in sight.
“They were really excited. There was some momentum once we got close to the end, and we finished it,” he says, adding with a chuckle, “We were extremely surprised we did.”
And the power of giving strikes again.