Different in size and work, the two businesses that won Commitment to McHenry County awards for community service have made their names known locally through similar philanthropic efforts during the years.
Whether displayed on YMCA signs in Crystal Lake or as the lead organizer behind a Santa-themed charitable 5K race, Sage Products in Cary and In Sync Systems in Crystal Lake have donated much time and money to area nonprofits such as Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County, the Family Health Partnership Clinic and many others.
Leaders behind both businesses credited the desire to give back to their local communities as the main motivation for their charitable endeavors. Sage and In Sync were recognized earlier this fall during the Northwest Herald’s Commitment to McHenry County awards program.
Sage also won workplace of the year for large employers for its efforts to engage employees at its Cary headquarters.
Since relocating to the county in 1980, the medical materials manufacturer that now employs more than 700 area residents has developed a reputation within the community as a business willing to support its community and employees.
Through donations and sponsorships, Sage estimates its employees have supplied area nonprofits with $3.71 million over the past 10 years. Numerous groups have noted Sage’s community efforts with awards and recognitions, with the most recent accolade coming from the McHenry County Economic Development Corp.
The organization Tuesday named Sage one of its 2015 Business Champions for employers with more than 300 workers.
But for Vince Foglia, the 80-year-old founder who started Sage Products in 1971, the reason Sage has worked to earn that reputation is simple: A stronger community creates a stronger workforce. The end goal, he said, has been to make Sage the destination to work in the county.
“Quality people produce quality products, and they are the essential ingredients for success. Without them, there is no success,” Foglia said. “We have a bunch of people in the workplace coming to their job each day, and we want people engaged in their jobs.”
Sage accomplishes this through its own goals to provide continually for the community, its clients and employees, said President and CEO Scott Brown. The mindset is ingrained within Sage’s workplace, starting with its slogan of “keeping it personal.”
At the end of each year, Sage invites representatives from nearly a dozen area nonprofits to meet with employees, share what they do and why employees should give to their causes. Throughout the year, employees can make deductions from their paychecks and donate the money to their favorite nonprofit. Sage then matches all employee donations.
For its charitable efforts, the Sage name appears often on numerous buildings throughout the county, from the Sage YMCA in Crystal Lake to the Centegra Sage Cancer Center in McHenry.
Started nearly 20 years ago, the Foglia Family Foundation also supports numerous charitable efforts outside of the county as a separate way for his family to give back.
“Our goal is to stay close to people, so we stay close to our customers, our people and our community partners,” Brown said. “That way you get better communication. You hear from one another, you learn from one another and you improve with one another.”
The approach has earned Sage a favorable reputation for its work environment, where employees can use numerous perks designed to help them professionally and personally, Brown said.
Sage runs a mentoring program that matches employees and allows them a confidential space to vent and discuss any issues they have with their jobs.
The manufacturer houses a wellness center with a basketball court and fitness center. A nurse is staffed daily to provide employees with screenings, physical therapy and other services.
If employees don’t want to use the nurse, they could wait for the doctor who visits Sage once a week, Brown said. Employees also can register for fitness programs, access third-party counselors and set-up appointments for their children to have sports physicals or receive annual flu shots.
To continue their training, employees can apply for Sage’s tuition reimbursement to complete their undergraduate or graduate studies. The company also runs a scholarship program for children of Sage employees.
Sage encourages employees to plan for their futures, offering to match employees’ 401k retirement contributions dollar for dollar up to 10 percent, Brown said.
In Sync Systems
Inside In Sync Systems’ small office along Berkshire Drive in Crystal Lake, owner Mike Splitt anxiously cuts open a recently arrived package.
The package didn’t contain new equipment to the telephone, sound and security systems the nine employees at In Sync sells to commercial clients throughout the McHenry County area.
It instead contained the new multi-colored wristbands that will be distributed to Santa Run participants on Dec. 6. On the floor nearby, the new signs advertising the charitable run laid ready for placement – all a part of a new marketing effort to attract more people to the 5K race hosted by the Crystal Lake Kiwanis Club that benefits numerous area nonprofits.
Splitt’s eagerness can be justified, he said. The lead organizer behind the race wants it even bigger, despite the event entering its fourth year, because it will kickoff – what Splitt hopes – is a record year for donations to community nonprofits.
Year after year, Splitt directs three community races – the Santa Run, the Patriot 5K that benefits area veteran groups and the Bob Blazier Run for the Arts that benefits the Raue Center in Crystal Lake.
Seeing needs grow among area nonprofits, he wants to raise a record $100,000 from all three races in 2016.
“We need to champion these events and help these groups out. I have not been in their shoes as for those agencies helping the needy or the battered women at Turning Point, or the children affected by Big Brothers,” Splitt said. “I haven’t had to be on the receiving end of those agencies, but I know they have a huge amount of need that isn’t being fulfilled.”
In the years since Splitt founded In Sync in 1990 out of a basement in Crystal Lake, he has tried to use his position as a businessman for community efforts.
Along with the planning that goes into the charitable races, Splitt has served numerous boards and community groups, including the Crystal Lake Kiwanis Club, Leadership Greater McHenry County, MCEDC, Centegra’s governance board and many others.
The volunteerism has helped him grow In Sync over the years, but it also brings personal satisfaction, he said. He can go home and feel like he accomplished something for the community.
“That’s a reward in of itself,” Splitt said. “In Sync doesn’t make any money off these events. Nothing leaves our county, but the benefit all goes toward the nonprofits.”