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Joe Vaske and Marilyn Smit, co owners of M45 Marketing have been faithful United Way supporters since they opened their doors.  Not only does M45 run a company campaign with 100% employee participation, but they volunteer for United Way’s Day of Action, help us with marketing and graphic design, and support all of our special events.

What influences your philanthropic personalities?

Joe: My parents and family were my greatest influence. I grew up in a very generous environment.

Marilyn: I agree with Joe and also, I believe I have been lucky. I believe in sharing my good fortune.

You are both very involved in the community. With so many organizations in the area, what makes you such strong United Way supporters?

Marilyn: I believe in the United Way mission and the allocation process, as well as the people administering the organization.

Joe: The volunteer opportunities have always been insightful. Also, United Way makes it easy for contributors’ dollars to get results. Committee members determine the greatest need.

You both are wonderful advocates on our behalf and you run a campaign with 100% employee participation. How do you create a charitable culture in your organization?

Joe: We have a very casual approach to the campaign. We communicate our beliefs and encourage participation, but allow them (the employees) to make the final decisions.

Marilyn: We believe in leading by example. We also like to make it fun. We recognize generosity with our star program.

Could you tell us more about your star program?

Joe: Any employee can recognize another employee for a kind/charitable act. The names of the person recognizing and the person being recognized are entered into a drawing. One name drawn receives a small prize and another name drawn gets to choose a 501 (C) 3 organization to send a donation to.

What is one of your favorite United Way experiences?

Marilyn: I enjoy being a part of the charity auction. That is always a fun time. I also like volunteering at an agency for Day of Action. It is a wonderful experience to interact with the people using the funds and see the work that is being done.

Joe: I always enjoyed doing the Campaign presentations at different businesses.

United Way’s focus areas are education, income and health. Is there a particular impact area you are most passionate about? Why?

Joe: They are all critical to the health of our community, but I believe educating youth is fundamentally important. It has long lasting benefits.

Marilyn: I agree. If we focus on educating our youth it will impact income and health as well.

If you could help United Way make one lasting change in our community, what would it be?

Marilyn: I would make sure all kids have a strong education and a community that works together to encourage graduation so kids can get off on the right foot. I truly believe it takes a village to raise a child. United Way does a good job in facilitating this community effort, but the people have to realize they must do their part.

Joe: I think we have a lot of people who want to help, but our community needs a better mechanism to engage these volunteers and channel their efforts effectively to create lasting change.

Joe and Marilyn are an example of many individuals that go above and beyond to support United Way of Northwest Illinois. If you would like to share your story with us and the community, please contact the United Way office at 815-232-5184.