I was the youngest of four children raised by a single mother who worked tirelessly to provide for myself and my siblings. She worked long, hard hours on her feet all day as a line cook. We were poor, but we had each other.
When you grow up from humble beginnings, as I did, you never take anything for granted. You also learn to pay it forward when things work out for you. That's why on this National Potato Day, I'm going to tell you the story behind Aegis Living's Potato Soup Foundation in the hopes of inspiring you to make a difference in the world and your community.
How It All Began
At one point, we had absolutely no money or food, so my mother stole some potatoes from the restaurant where she worked and made potato soup, which we ate for a week. She vowed to return them later and said something that has stuck with me ever since. She said, "Dwayne, no matter what you do, don't ever forget where you came from and that you had to eat potato soup every day for a week. When you have employees, be there for them, and they will always be there for you."
This one statement from my mother has had an immeasurable impact on me. And the sentiment has influenced most of my business decisions, but none more so than my creating the Potato Soup Foundation.
For me, the heart of a company and how your business contributes to the lives of your clients and those who work diligently to serve within your company is of critical importance. Employees are the backbone of an organization, and when they're hurting or facing hardship, their employer should be willing to offer a helping hand. It’s not only good for business, but it's also the right thing to do.
The Potato Soup Foundation was created to assist Aegis Living staff and their families in extreme times of need. The Foundation has helped people with emergency medical treatments, emergency housing, funeral expenses, and a variety of other aid during a crisis. When one of us is hurting, we all pitch in to help because, for most of us, our work is our home away from home.
Something About Soup
Maybe there's just something wholesome and heartwarming about soup that makes us want to use it as a metaphor for helping others as a soup kitchen does. Children are even told the folk story of Stone Soup in elementary school. In that story, hungry strangers convince the people of a town to each share a small amount of their food to make a meal that everyone enjoys. The moral of the story being the value of sharing.
That's very much like how our Potato Soup Foundation operates. While we do have a few external donors, the majority of donations come from the staff at each of our 33 communities. They donate to the Foundation in small increments—it can even be as little as 25 cents out of each paycheck, but every bit counts and adds up quickly.
Each year, about two dozen Aegis workers in need of financial assistance receive help from the Potato Soup Foundation. Through our employees' generosity, their coworkers can recover from unpredictable situations.
More Ways to Give
The Potato Soup Foundation is just one of the many ways that Aegis Living gives back to its dedicated employees and the communities in which they're located. During the holidays, Aegis hosts Winterfest, where the company purchases a variety of items and sets up what becomes a small department store at several communities. Then, employees can come in and “shop” for any items they need at no cost to them. Whether it’s clothing or toys or candy, we just want to ensure that all our employees’ families have a wonderful holiday season.
Leaving an Imprint
I believe it's important to leave an imprint on the world that's both positive and uplifting. Kindness is our greatest asset. Even small acts can make a big impact. In terms of your business, a kinder company means happier, healthier employees. And that's a win-win for everyone.
If the past few years have shown us anything, it's that it takes each and every one of us to build a kinder world. And while that might initially seem overwhelming, one small step you can take is by looking out for the people that keep a roof over your head. Not out of a sense of responsibility or obligation but because caring is at the core of our humanity.
Scientists (even Darwin, who's known for his theory of the survival of the fittest) believe that we are a profoundly social and caring species. He argued that sympathy and caring for others are instinctual in humans. It's simply up to us to act on what nature has instilled within us.
So, don’t waste any more time. What will be your potato soup, and how will you be there for your employees and coworkers, neighbors and friends?
Until next time, Live Well, Live Long!