Expressing thanks to businesses that LIVE UNITED!

Posted by A. Smith on May-24-2012

Dear corporate world,

I have never worked for you directly. I have respected you from afar, but I have never really known you – at least not beyond what I have read in the headlines, garnered from ads, or surmised by using your goods or services. Only recently did I get a glimpse of your insides, your heart. I was blown away.

I liked what I saw. As a matter of fact, I loved it.

I will never see you the same.

Last week, I participated in United Way of Greater Portland’s Day of Caring. I teamed up with this powerful nonprofit to mine stories – to uncover nuggets and determine at a later date how we might integrate them into the organization’s larger storytelling movement.

As anticipated, I met with wonderful volunteers, witnessed the magic of teamwork, and discovered nonprofits doing amazing work. What blindsided me, however, was the profound and positive impact YOU had on me.

Yes, I knew over the years your company has done a lot of good. I’ve read about the countless hours and dollars you invest in the community. I’ve seen the press releases and annual reports. But, experiencing the difference you make firsthand was something numbers can’t communicate.

I talked with your workers, watched them toil, and saw the smiles on their faces. I heard how grateful they are to you for not only allowing them but also encouraging them to volunteer. I learned how some of them return to the same place year and year again because they’ve fallen in love with an organization and how others try something new every year because they like giving back in different ways. I realized how much the Day of Caring opens their eyes to the community in which they live and work.

I was overwhelmed by the army of people you empower to make a difference – and by the fact that this was just one day, but that you do this every day in many ways by sharing your people, your services, your dollars…your insides.

You make a MASSIVE difference. You have a great story.

I am grateful for my new perspective. Thank you for all that you do. Thank you for showing up and using your power for good and for setting an example for your employees and the larger world.

With gratitude,

Angela Smith


United Way of Greater Portland’s 20th Day of Caring

Posted by A. Smith on May-18-2012

I love people who experiment. So when United Way of Greater Portland’s Jessica Esch asked me if I wanted to participate in the organization’s 20th Day of Caring by mining stories, I was all for it. Neither of us knew going into it how things would unfold or how we’d use the stories down the road, but that’s okay because we’re the kind of crazy people who roll with it.

I showed up at yesterday’s kickoff rally at 7:45 a.m. with my notebook in hand. Jess gave me a few pointers, and then I made my way through the energetic crowd initiating dialogue with random volunteers. I instantly remembered how good it feels to work with a nonprofit and to give people voice – to invite them to contribute not only their services but also their stories.

People who participate in the Day of Caring do it out of selflessness. The irony, however, is how much they get back from it – pride, satisfaction, inspiration, joy, and knowledge. Yes, knowledge. The volunteers I spoke with were astounded this year and in years past by learning about the amazing work being done by nonprofits right here in our local community. This includes me.

Throughout the morning, I visited Ruth’s Reusable Resources, Mission Possible Teen Center, and The Salvation Army, and I was taken back with each encounter. Talk about perspective. In one morning I learned about ripped binders being turned into sets of magnetic letters for kindergartners, a 17-year-old girl who has no home but an unbreakable spirit, and that 40,000 pounds of food can be sorted and packed in less than three hours through teamwork.

I’ll save my stories, but I’ll tell you this: We live in a community where thousands of dedicated people and purpose-driven organizations make miracles happen every single day. And, United Way of Greater Portland helps make it possible.

Thanks, UWGP!

How I Ended Up on the 29th Floor of Fast Company

Posted by A. Smith on Jun-22-2010

NYC part one of three:

I just spent two whirlwind days in New York City with my colleague and friend Laura Desmarais. We flew down for Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business event. But before I get into the details of our trip, let me backup and share how it came to be in the first place.

So, I am flipping through the May issue of Fast Company, and I see an ad for the 100 Most Creative People Within seconds I tell my husband I plan to go. As always, he supports me. A few days later, I go to sign up and to my dismay, registration isn’t open. What’s a girl to do? Jump on Twitter, of course, and email the brilliant brains behind the magazine’s online content, Noah Robischon. He replies immediately that the site will be ready soon, and he’ll “ping” me.

Well, I’m not the most patient person so I keep checking the site, and late one night I discover that registration is open. I also learn that the program is a mere three hours. There’s nothing wrong with this…it’s just a little hard to justify flying from Maine to New York for an afternoon. Deflated, I scratch the conference off my iCal.

Until the next day that is when things take an exciting turn.

Noah tweets me in the morning: site’s up. I politely reply that I don’t think I can pull it off, at least not in good judgment. To my surprise, he doesn’t let me off the hook that easily. Instead he writes, “We’ll make it worth your while. Who do we need to convince? I’ll help.”

Wow. For someone obsessed with Fast Company, I am both flattered and intrigued. Before I even have a chance to respond, I get another tweet from FC senior writer Ellen McGirt: “I’ll help, too.”

Now I’m literally smiling at my computer. I’m feeling giddy. The writer in me is doing cartwheels. And so the banter begins. I toss out the idea of a tour of Fast Company and drinks with them, and they bite! I jest that they are twisting my arm, virtual high fives ensue, and before I know it I am registered for the conference, making flight arrangements, booking a hotel, and calling Laura to let her know we are New York City bound!

Moral of the story: Be open to the unexpected. And, if you want something, ask for it. The world is filled with good people, and more often than not, wonderful journeys unfold.

LIVESTRONG: Renewing hope in people and in business

Posted by A. Smith on Dec-2-2009

I participated in a LIVESTRONG event in Austin, TX, nearly six weeks ago. I don’t think I’ve gone a day since without reflecting on my experience. First, there’s the obvious: The overwhelming gratitude I felt toward an organization that is confronting cancer in a big way. To witness the difference LIVESTRONG makes firsthand and to celebrate life in the company of survivors was simply awesome.

I will hold steadfastly to my memories of seeing two beautiful bald women embrace each other for the first time, of witnessing cyclists raise their arms in victory as they crossed the finish, and of sharing in conversation with Alyssa, Renee, Doug, and others whose spirits alone lend credence to a cancer-free world.

The weekend was everything I hoped for and more.

I walked away truly inspired by people. I also left with a renewed belief in the possibility of business. Cause aside, LIVESTRONG is an amazing organization. As an individual who is passionate about worthwhile and sustainable brands, I put LIVESTRONG in its own class. Here’s a glimpse of why this brand rocks:

  • Forget a mission statement, LIVESTRONG brings to life a manifesto (
  • The headquarters is LEED certified, incorporates more than a ton of re-used materials from the existing building, relies almost entirely on natural light, and boasts a kitchen where recycling and composting are given behaviors
  • This organization thrives on community from its engagement with local nonprofits to its global networking to its infamous twittering (with a live Twitter feed @LIVESTRONGHQ)
  • LIVESTRONG is not just a workplace but also a workout place where employees can hit the onsite gym, break for yoga, or take a company bike for a spin around town
  • The list goes on – internships, education, art, music, culture, outreach, websites, blogs, public tours, wristbands, patient support, empathy, vision…

LIVESTRONG not only bleeds yellow but also paints the world yellow with hope.

There’s a lot we can learn from LIVESTRONG, including how to live, work, and brand strong.