Mark Robert Halper

Bill Medina, of Medina Construction Co. in Salina, Kan., is a remodeler and a philanthropist. The story of Bill's journey to community-based giving involves a few elements - his passion for cooking and his ownership of a 1,600-square-foot loft apartment - not common to the experience of every remodeler. But it reminds us we can all bring our talents and energies to the table of giving. I'll let Bill tell you about it in his own words.

Local Levels

"My epiphany came when I took a group of youngsters to a ropes course," Medina says. "They were on a list of kids waiting for mentors in the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. We had a great time at the outing, but when I dropped them off at the parking lot, one girl's mother immediately started scolding her for no apparent reason other than the fact that she'd enjoyed herself."

"I was sure it ruined her day. But when I saw the same girl at the grocery store six months later, she told me her ropes course experience was the best ever. What that said was that I could make a difference and that I could do it on a 'touchable' level."

Not long after that, Medina was asked to help with a golf tournament intended to raise money for research by a national charity. "When I asked how much would actually go to that research, it turned out to be only 10 cents on the dollar." That, he says, made him decide to devote his energies to local charities, and to organizations where he could see actual results.

Dinner Time

Things took a new turn when Bill and his wife, Peggy, were given the opportunity to buy and renovate a historic downtown building. They rented out the first-floor commercial space but were left with a 1,600-square-foot, second-story loft. They decided to furnish and decorate the loft, which is located eight blocks from their home.

"One night over dinner with our best friends," Medina says, "we brainstormed how we could use this special space in a productive way. Out of this was born our idea for benevolent giving through dinner parties." (Medina loves cooking, and the couple's friend is a baker.)

"We began by inviting six couples - all community leaders and possible future hosts. We shared our idea with them. They were impressed enough that they've since hosted several dinners themselves. Then we expanded it to invite others to host dinners to benefit their favorite charities."

The minimum goal of each event is a contribution of $2,500 to a local charity. Dinners are $250 a plate. The food is of gourmet quality. Music and decor follow a theme.

"Anyone in the community can host a dinner for their friends and schedule it with us. We do everything else. Our spouses help with table setting, decorations, theme music, and serving," Medina says.

"Guests write their check directly to the charity that's chosen, and we then invoice the charity for food (usually $150) and a $50 cleaning service fee. We hosted the first dinner and cooked for three others. We have three more on the schedule and three other prospects."

Lesson In Giving

What a lesson this presents in combining what you love to do with what you care about. As I interviewed Bill, he never mentioned what the marketing or networking value of these events might be to his firm.

He's focused on what he can do with his time and effort and funds to improve his community.

How are you using your time, money, and talents to support your community? Write me at [email protected], and we'll inspire others to do the same.

-Linda Case, CRA, is founder of Remodelers Advantage Inc. in Fulton, Md., a company providing business solutions through a network of experts and peers. (301) 490-5620; [email protected];