Finished home, Lamar Eby and Tim Fetzer


As President, CEO, Chairman of the Board and owner of a 35-year-old network marketing company, Charles W. Herbster has plenty to keep himself busy at work. Yet as he and his Chief Executive, Lamar Eby, were engaged in strategic planning just over two years ago, their greater purpose and core values called to them to focus some of their energies and resources outside of their own workplace and into the larger community.

“We committed to making a charitable impact in our community,” says Lamar. “We asked, ‘What would serve others while also serving our employees and field team?’ We chose Habitat for Humanity: it’s known for its high integrity and the positive impact it has on people’s lives…and it’s accessible to our Independent Business Owners (IBO).” The company’s focus on the building trade (one of its six product divisions) also made it a natural fit.

 

Opportunity for All

In addition to helping others less fortunate, Charles and Lamar are grateful for this unique opportunity for their corporate employees and field leaders. Charles explains, “Habitat for Humanity gives us a natural environment for team building, because it’s a hands-on charity.”

In 2004, eighty corporate staff volunteered (during company-paid work days) to participate in one of the five days of a “build” in their local area. Local field leaders joined in with them, giving everyone a ripe opportunity to get to know each other in ways not generally available in the workplace. The effort was so successful that Charles and Lamar have set a goal to participate in three more builds during 2005.

“Individuals from corporate who work in different groups had an opportunity to get to know—and to support—one another through this charitable venture,” says Lamar. “It was also important for our staff to connect with the field managers in ways that just don’t happen in other settings.”

 

Another President on Habitat for Humanity

It takes going onto a build site, working and sweating alongside other volunteers and the future homeowner, and then seeing lives changed to truly experience the power of Habitat for Humanity’s mission. It is difficult to imagine that anyone—former president, top business executive, celebrity, or Mary and John from down the street—could attend a house dedication service and not be moved to involvement. There is nothing quite like being present when the keys to their new home, along with a Bible, are handed over to a family that never expected to know the security of decent, affordable shelter, let alone homeownership.

— Jimmy Carter, from
“Helping Habitat to Build a Better World:
A Column by Jimmy Carter” for
Habitat World (www.habitat.org)

From the Field of Dreams

Charles and Lamar are familiar with the needs of field managers, having come from that side of the business themselves.

For Lamar, who now provides leadership to the entire corporate staff, his experience in more than 13 years as an Independent Business Owner included purchasing over two million dollars worth of resale products and building a large team of IBOs. His leadership calling took him to corporate initially to help implement new training curriculum and to participate in leadership councils. And for Charles, his belief in the company he was working with in 1992 was so strong that he decided to purchase the company!

Both know the value of teamwork as a foundation for success in business, and both are committed to connecting their team members to their new charitable strategic objective.

“In addition to the benefits of teambuilding,” adds Charles, “the feeling everyone gets from helping a charitable cause like Habitat for Humanity is very positive—sometimes even life-changing.”

National Director Tim Fetzer agrees. “It makes a guy feel good to help his fellow man. Sometimes we get so busy, we don’t take the time to help others. Everybody can afford to take a day for something like Habitat for Humanity. It was time well spent.”

 

The Gift of Giving

In addition to contributing more than 520 hours of labor to date, the company has also donated money and product to Habitat.

“In 2004,” says Lamar, “we gave a certain percentage of proceeds on a quarterly basis. For 2005, we’ve chosen to give all of the profits from the sales of special promotional items to Habitat and to participate hands-on in home builds in Columbus, Ohio; Lincoln, Nebraska; and the Twin Cities area.”

From its beginnings, the venture has proven a perfect relationship between a company in the building trade and a charitable organization that builds homes for those in need. Response from their IBOs has been enthusiastic from day one. Several field managers had already been con- tributing their resources to Habitat for Humanity on their own in their local communities. Now, they say, it’s an all-out team effort.

Even the children of employees and field managers were invited to join in. For some of them, it opened their eyes to the gift of giving.

“Before we went, I told my son Stosh I’d pay him for the day’s work,” says Director and Master Contractor Stan Volkman. “When we got home that night, he refused to be paid. Until you actually volunteer, you don’t realize what an impact it can make.”

Individuals like Charles W. Herbster, Lamar Eby, Tim Fetzer, and Stan and Stosh Volkman have helped Habitat for Humanity provide shelter for nearly 900,000 people worldwide since 1976. Working side by side with the future homeowners, volunteers have an unforgettable physical and emotional experience of helping their neighbors. Habitat then sells the houses at no profit, with no interest charged on the mortgage, to those in need. Now at work in 100 countries, this non-denominational Christian-based non-profit builds a house every 26 minutes.

 

Charitable Beginnings

Habitat for Humanity is not the first organization to benefit from the giving nature of the two men at the helm of this networking company. For Lamar, his foray into charitable giving began as early as 17, when he participated in short-term mission trips to help people in less fortunate areas. On one such trip, he traveled to France to mentor mentally challenged young people.

“Giving is more than money,” he says. “When I took the time to evaluate and prioritize things in my life, I realized how important it is for me to provide for others.” Making personal contact with those he serves has created lasting impressions. In the case of the young people from France, he never forgot their dreams of coming to America some day.

“In 1987, I was able to host four of the people I had worked with in France to come to the US. It was a heartwarming experience,” says Lamar.

Charles and his wife, Judy, Executive Vice President of their networking company, are also deeply attracted to helping youth. “We don’t have children of our own,” says Charles, “so we have a special interest in helping young people.”

Through exceptional people he has met in the networking profession, Charles has been introduced to programs that have become part of his and Judy’s hearts as well as their company’s charitable contributions.

“About six years ago, good friend, mentor, and former DSA board member C. Richard Weyland introduced me to the needs of the Children’s Home in Sevierville, Tennessee,” says Charles. “For a donation of $25,000, our company was able to refurbish a home for twelve girls with new kitchen equipment, beds and more to meet these girls’ basic needs.”

Perhaps one of the most meaningful projects for the Herbsters involved bringing 16 inner-city teenagers (along with staff from their school and two police officers) from Washington, DC to one of Charles’s 17 family farms in Nebraska. The fourth-generation owner of most of these farms, Charles is grateful for the bounty of the land he has enjoyed since childhood, and is struck by how many never experience this type of relationship with the land.

“These young people had had a tremendously rough and rocky life,” says Charles. “They were kids who did bad things and were just a breath away from being behind bars. They had never been to a rural location away from the city before; they had lived their whole life on the streets.” The week these teens spent on the Herbsters’ farm offered them a new perspective on life.

Says Charles, “It’s a humbling honor to be involved in this kind of work.”

 

The Power of Money for Good Works

At a recent company conference, Charles got to know one of the speakers, S. Truett Cathy, founder of the Chick-fil-A chain. Cathy has been recognized internationally for his successful two-billion-dollar business and his generous humanitarian efforts. Cathy’s gift of multiple millions of dollars to young boys and his recent book, It’s Better to Build Boys Than to Mend Men, are an inspiration to Charles. Cathy’s WinShape Centre® Foundation, which reaches out to children in trouble and helps to shape winners, has become another recipient of the generosity of this privately held networking company.

“The young people of today will be our future leaders of tomorrow,” declares Charles, “in every aspect of this great country of ours—in politics, in direct selling and in the corporate world. I have a heart for supporting young people today who are not as fortunate as Lamar and I were, both of us having had the privilege of being raised in good homes with solid foundations.”

Charles and Lamar want to encourage other companies, especially those with thousands of em- ployees, to contribute generously to good causes. Says Charles, “How rewarding it is to be able to give in so many ways—with financial support, spreading the word by speaking, and hands-on, personal energy. My philosophy has always been to spend our time, effort and money on good works; not on bigger, glitzier offices and fancy jets to fly you around.”

Although networking companies provide people with needed products and services, and may ultimately help people rise above their financial troubles, Charles points out, the result of success in this business can often be personal over-spending.

“A lot of the focus in network marketing can sometimes get tied up too heavily in material things. But these are pretty insignificant when you compare them to the value of investing our time, energy and money in people’s lives.”