How These Midwest Organizations Are Giving Back In Unexpected Ways

If the Upper Midwest is known for anything, it’s hospitality. Whether you’re taking a stroll down a small-town street or wandering through the hustle and bustle of metro Chicago, you’re likely to get a smile and nod from a stranger, or several — that’s just how they do it up north.

And that Midwest nice doesn’t stop at the boardroom door. When these friendly folks get together in business settings, they tend to look for ways to build their brands that enrich the world around them. We partnered with Michigan Lottery to highlight some amazing Midwest-based companies that are giving back to the community in ways that go far beyond business as usual — from partnering with charities on events to donating money and resources to nonprofits in need.

  • Cake Plus-Size Resale — Minneapolis, MN
    <strong>What it does: </strong>Cake Plus-Size Resale is a body-positive resale shop for sizes extra-large and up that makes s
    Courtesy of Amal Flower Kay
    What it does: Cake Plus-Size Resale is a body-positive resale shop for sizes extra-large and up that makes stylish secondhand clothing accessible to plus-size shoppers. Find it in Minneapolis or online.

    How it gives back: 
    “We make it a priority to give back in big and small ways,” said store owner Cat Polivoda.

    Some of the ways Cake is making a difference in the Twin Cities? It collects donations year-round for the Big Fat Super Swap, a local biannual plus-size clothing swap, and it also donates $1,000 worth of inventory quarterly to the swap. During Black Friday weekend last year, it dedicated 20 percent of its sales to purchasing new winter coats in sizes triple extra-large to sextuple extra-large for those in need, and was able to buy 22 warm jackets for people who would have otherwise been left out in the (literal) cold of a Minneapolis winter.  

    What it means to the community and the team: “Our community lets us know all the time how happy they are we exist,” said Polivoda. “Folks feel safe here, and comfortable being able to shop in a body-positive space that caters to plus-size people. I can't wait to give more and more as we grow. The more successful we are, the more we can give and the more we can do for our community!”
  • Fairgrounds Coffee and Tea — Chicago, IL
    <strong>What it does: </strong><a href="" target="_blank">Fairgrounds</a>&nbsp;brings dozens of t
    Courtesy of Fairgrounds Coffee and Tea
    What it does: Fairgrounds brings dozens of the finest craft coffee roasts and specialty teas together under one roof for what co-founder and CEO Michael Schultz calls “a customized sipping experience.” In addition to its caffeinated offerings, Fairgrounds also serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, made fresh in-house.

    How it gives back: 
    “Giving back is at the core of Fairgrounds Coffee and Tea’s business,” said Schultz.

    At its two locations in Chicago, it supports various local charities and nonprofits through monetary donations, discounts and volunteer work. “We also recently launched a campaign in support of a dear friend’s daughter’s battle with epilepsy,” said Schultz. “In partnership with Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy (CURE) and ‘Hamilton’s’ Miguel Cervantes, we created a special coffee blend, Fairground’s Adelaide’s Blend, in honor of Cervantes’s daughter, Adelaide, who battles a rare form of childhood epilepsy.”

    Adelaide’s Blend is available online and at all Fairgrounds and Infuse Hospitality locations, as well as in 41 Mariano’s stores. It will also be donating 20 percent of all sales on opening day for the new Fairgrounds locations in Minneapolis and Los Angeles.

    What it means to the community and the team: “The first thing we do when we open a new Fairgrounds is give back to the community,” said Schultz. “We choose a charity to donate a portion of opening day sales to, which sets the tone for our teams and the community by showing them that giving back is the core of our business. Whether it’s with my family or with my team members, we are constantly donating our time, money — anything we can do for our communities — and that is the legacy I want to leave for my children.”
  • Village Green — Detroit, MI
    <strong>What it does: </strong><a href="" target="_blank">Village Green Managemen
    Courtesy of Village Green
    What it does: Village Green Management is a real estate company based in Detroit that’s been providing apartment management services to buildings in several U.S. states for more than 100 years.

    How it gives back: “VG Cares is the philanthropic arm of Village Green,” said Brenda Robinson-Wright, Village Green area director and national ambassador for VG Cares. “We have partnered with various charities over the years, and currently, we are supporting Ronald McDonald Houses and Feeding America.”

    Additionally, Village Green organizes an annual charity event called Splash Day. Celebrated at Village Green’s headquarters and its properties nationwide, staff and residents jump into pools to raise funds for local charities and commemorate the start of spring. In 2017, Village Green donated nearly $90,000 to local Ronald McDonald House Charities, and Splash Day has raised more than $500,000 for RMHC within Village Green’s seven regions (Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Dallas, Cincinnati and Indianapolis).

    What it means to the community and the team: “We believe it is our responsibility as a company to contribute to improving our society,” said Robinson-Wright. “We want to provide our associates, suppliers and residents the opportunity to join us and experience the satisfaction that comes with volunteering time and money to worthwhile causes. With programs like Splash Day, we work to build goodwill in the communities we operate in while creating workplaces that attract people who share our passion for caring.”

These pioneering organizations aren’t the only ones giving back. Over the past 45 years, Michigan Lottery has contributed more than $21 billion to support public education in the state of Michigan. In 2017 alone, Michigan Lottery provided a record $924 million to Michigan public schools — that’s about $2.5 million per day! It turns out you don’t need to own your own business to support your community. Every time you buy a Michigan Lottery ticket, you’re helping to provide kids with textbooks, teachers with school supplies and an entire generation with an education that will last a lifetime.

Words by Caroline Thompson