By Beth Erickson – Photo ©Photo Images of Northbrook, Ill

The gods called it fate. The Buddhists call it karma.

Most of us today say, “What you put out is what you get back.” What is it? It’s the simple recognition that we are part of something bigger than ourselves, recognizing that our businesses would not be successful, thriving, and profitable without the community in which we live and the clients and vendors with whom we work. Certainly, the level of service and hospitality we provide is critical to our success, but so is everyone else. So how can we show the community we appreciate its support? Ask “How can I help?” Then, donate your time, talent, and treasure.

That’s exactly what Liz Guthrie has done. Guthrie, founder and executive director of Wish Upon a Wedding, organized a large-scale wedding giveaway contest in San Francisco in 2009. from over 350 entries, the couple that won, through public voting, was a woman battling stage IV hodgkin’s lymphoma and her fiancé, an officer in the united states Air force, who was deployed overseas. Over 40 vendors donated their goods and services to the wedding of this couple. “The wedding industry was quite hungry for this opportunity to help couples who had been dealt such serious, life-altering circumstances,” says Guthrie. “I was amazed and humbled by the willingness of wedding vendors to give, give, give! This couple’s love story inspired the creation of Wish Upon a Wedding.”

Established in 2010, Wish Upon a Wedding, is a non-profit organization that creates weddings and vow renewals for couples, regardless of sexual orientation, facing terminal illness and other critical circumstances. to date, they have granted 13 wedding wishes, grown to 16 chapters, inspired more than 11,000 fans on Facebook, 5,000 followers on Twitter, and a group of nearly 4,000 volunteers.

Why such rapid growth? “We happened to announce the organization in the right place at the right time. The wedding industry was looking for a way they could give back. The fact that wedding professionals can donate their time and services to make wishes come true makes it easy for them to become involved. Our partnership with the ABC allows members to trust us, and encourages them to become involved,” says Guthrie.

Not all ways of giving back will grow to such a grand scale, but each is equally important since giving is like dropping a pebble in the water and watching its impact ripple outward in waves. According to Denise Bonds, owner of The Windermere Elegant Weddings, a wedding and event planning company in Chicago, the good can come back to us, and “if not to me personally, probably to the person who will indirectly impact me and others.”

Bonds donates her time and business expertise to plan events and fund- raisers for her church and rainbows, a non-profit organization that assists children who are grieving a life-altering crisis. Plus, each year, she offers her wedding planning services to one couple for free. “This is my way of giving back to the community—without any special reason,” says Bonds.

Contributing our skills, abilities, and sometimes our dollars to the greater good not only spurs an obvious benefit for others, it feels good. But that’s not the only reason people give back. “The communities in which I work help me with my business. One way I give back is by using local vendors. If I don’t give back to the community, how will the next person be able to reach the next level?” asks Bonds.

Guthrie agrees. “As a responsible business owner, it is our duty to give back to the community we live or work in. If you have been blessed with good health, you can and should find a way to make a positive impact on someone else’s life. find what you are passionate about, and get involved. The more you involve yourself with helping others, the richer your own life will become. No business or person can be truly successful until they give freely and with an open heart.”

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