- Jan 17, 2019
The Corporate Citizen of the Year is recognized for promoting a spirit of giving and community involvement.
It may still be a relative newcomer to Northbrook, but Waterway Carwash has swiftly become one of the most visible and active participants in the community. Since opening its Waukegan Road location in 2015, friendly Waterway team employees have been a fixture at a vast array of community fundraisers and events, inviting guests to play their Spin the Wheel game to win free car washes and other prizes. Over 50 local organizations have received donations for raffles or other support from Waterway.
“We don’t say ‘no’ very much,” acknowledges Jason Young, Waterway Market Leader, with a smile. “If we can bring the Wheel to an event, we like to go and make that personal connection. We want the community to know that we’re here for them.”
This emphasis on community connection has deep roots in the Waterway corporate philosophy. Founded in the St. Louis suburbs in 1970, the company values solid, long-term growth and takes a selective approach in identifying locations for expansion. (The Northbrook Waterway was the company’s 20th location across five metropolitan areas and the first in Illinois; the chain has now opened in Highland Park, and plans are underway for one or two additional Chicago-area locations soon.) The goal, according to the company’s website, is to establish Waterway outlets that will last for more than a generation.
A key step in achieving that goal is developing strong relationships with community institutions. While the corporation has a long history of supporting national charities like Mothers Against Drunk Driving and Junior Achievement, each Waterway location is dedicated to finding ways to support for neighborhood causes.
“We generally start with the local Chamber and the schools,” notes Young. “A strong Chamber helps us connect to other businesses and community groups, and the schools are important partners for our staffing needs. In Northbrook, we obviously had a great foundation to build on.”
Chamber involvement has been a priority for Waterway’s Northbrook team. Young joined the Chamber Board of Directors in 2017, and currently is participating in the Leadership Northbrook program. Waterway employees pitched in at the Chamber’s meal packing event and frequently attend First Friday and other programs. Waterway also consistently steps up to support the Chamber’s Golf Outing and Auction & Taste.
In the larger community, Waterway has provided significant support for Northbrook-based charities. Its largest commitment has been to the North Suburban YMCA, participating in multiple events like Healthy Kids Day, the Strong Kids Dinner, SeniorPalooza, the Halloween Spooktacular, and the Y’s anniversary celebration, and making a multi-year financial pledge to continue support of the Y’s programs for the community. It also maintains a strong connection to both Glenbrook High Schools, sponsoring events, promoting and donating to food drives, serving as DECA judges and mock interview coaches, and presenting scholarships to college-bound students. In addition, Waterway has been actively involved in fundraisers for the Civic Foundation, Northbrook Rotary, Hunger Resource Network, the Hunger Free Northbrook initiative, Shermerfest and more.
Chamber Board member and Ambassador Paul Kaufmann tells this story of the support he received from Waterway: “I am part of a group of friends that started a charity a couple of years ago. Last December we were raising money to help a shelter for abused women and children in the Englewood neighborhood in Chicago. When we approached Waterway for help with our holiday fundraiser, they didn’t hesitate for a minute. Their team came to a Starbucks on a freezing cold Saturday morning with their own tent, table and employees (at no charge), stood outside and helped us raise over $300. We are lucky to have such a positive and supportive company standing by community organizations in Northbrook.”
For a company that values the long view, Waterway’s commitment to corporate citizenship has benefits beyond the groups that receive help today. Waterway employees, many of whom are high school students, learn life lessons on the importance of volunteering and giving back to the community. Waterway has a remarkable record of promoting from within — Young notes that over half the management staff, including himself, started out as entry-level employees in school — but whether they stay with the company or go elsewhere in their careers, they will carry the values they learned from this caring corporate culture.