McHENRY – For one day each fall season, hundreds usually line across storefronts in a strip mall along Front Street in McHenry, as they await for an annual special to open at Steffan’s Jewelers.
Inside the family-owned jeweler that has operated in McHenry since 1946, mystery boxes containing jewelry, gift cards and other prizes valued between $10 and $1,000 sit available for purchase for the waiting customers outside.
It’s an annual event customers have grown to love, said owner Suzanne Cannon, for its allure and purpose. That’s because unlike most business specials, all proceeds generated from the “Ladies’ Day” event directly goes toward the Pioneer Center for Human Services – the largest social service provider in McHenry County.
For Cannon, the annual fundraiser is one of many charitable activities at Steffan’s, a jewelry store that spans three generations of family ownership and now fields between 500 and 1,000 donation or sponsorship requests a year.
The community involvement is a part of the business’ social responsibility, a mindset that has evolved over the decades, Cannon said.
“As a business owner, I’ve accepted the reality that giving isn’t just an ask, or a pain or an eye roll. It’s a responsibility,” she said. “My showroom is a floor to bring attention to the needs of the community but to also pay back the people who come here.”
Roughly a half dozen customers and beneficiaries of the jeweler’s donations nominated the business for the Northwest Herald’s inaugural Commitment to McHenry County awards program last month, noting the business’ quality service and involvement within the community.
Employing eight people, Steffan’s Jewelers won the overall Commitment to Community award for small employers. The awards program recognizes numerous businesses and nonprofit organizations that have demonstrated a consistent pattern of improving the quality of life in McHenry County.
As Steffan’s reputation for charity has spread across the county, the local business has made a concerted effort to accommodate all donation requests but also to focus on larger events or activities that can raise funds for core nonprofits in the area.
Steffan’s Jewelers donates products for programs and events at area McHenry schools.
The business is a prominent participant with Centegra Health System’s “Mad Hatters Luncheon,” which raises funds for women health services.
One of the business’ larger fundraisers, the “Ladies’ Day” event last year raised about $3,500 in the first 45 minutes through sale of the mystery boxes, Cannon said. This year, the business has set an ambitious goal to raise $10,000 for the Pioneer Center.
Once the “Ladies’ Day” event on Nov. 20 concludes, the employees at Steffan’s Jewelers will start wrapping more mystery boxes for a “Ladies’ Night” event on Dec. 3, a first-ever evening fundraiser to help Steffan’s meet its donation goal for the center, Cannon said.
The fundraising initiatives has helped build Steffan’s reputation within the community beyond a local jeweler selling diamonds, engagement rings, pendants, watches and offering appraisal and repair services, she said.
Its relationship with the community also has grown in a time when many area nonprofit organizations are seeing demand for funds and resources increase.
“As I’ve matured as a business owner, I’ve realized while I can make a living and pay my bills, I can help make a difference and raise the threshold of people in our community that don’t have opportunities,” Cannon said.
Cannon also extends opportunities to her employees within her small retail space in McHenry. As owner, she fully covers employees’ health insurance and offers to pay for additional schooling, if they decide to go back and continue their education.
Incentives like those are meant to empower Steffan’s employees to enrich their lives, she said. It also feeds into the business’ culture built around social responsibility.
“They become better parents,” Cannon said. “They become better workers. They become better mentors and better examples.”