MANDI Awards Feature

Meet Sharon Jordan

Finalist for the PNC Bank Navigator award lives to give back.

By - Mar 12th, 2020 12:13 pm


Sharon Jordan. Photo courtesy of LISC.

Sharon Jordan. Photo courtesy of LISC.

Sharon Jordan’s commitment to service can be traced back to her upbringing — particularly the influence of her mother.

“She helped without judgment and gave her time, talent and treasures to many,” Jordan said. “As a mother of six, she didn’t give because she had a lot financially, nor extra time — she gave because she felt it was the right thing to do.”

This ethic of giving has carried over to Jordan’s professional life, using her position as senior manager of community relations at Direct Supply to invest in the Milwaukee community.

Bob Klein, senior vice president of Direct Supply, said Sharon Jordan strengthens an inherently community-driven organization with her leadership.

Since Jordan began at the company almost 23 years ago, she was always finding different ways to engage in community service with others, Klein said.

“There was just kind of a small group of people that would get together and they would say, ‘I think we could pull off a blood drive, or I think that we could participate in packing some food up,’” Klein said.

Jordan volunteered her time outside of her regular duties in the accounts receivable department, but she wanted to set up a formal way for everyone to get involved. Klein said he and Jordan went to work to figure out how to embed a service program in the company, and eventually, the Community Involvement Program was born, coming up on its 15th year.

“Gradually as things gained momentum, she went to her boss and she said, ‘I’d really like to devote a portion of my time to be able to really lean into this,’” Klein said. “Originally 25% of our time was permitted to be allocated to community involvement, but ultimately 100% of our time was devoted.”

Within Direct Supply, she coordinates the leaders of the Partner Engagement Groups, including the Women’s Initiative Network, the Caregiver Network, the Toastmasters Chapter, the Environmental and Sustainability Council, and the Veterans in Partnership.

“Every single one of our partner engagement groups has a community service element to their mission,” Klein said. “So the Environmental and Sustainability Council may primarily exist to help make sure that our company is being environmentally smart and responsible, but in addition to that, they team up with some of our community partners under Sharon’s leadership that are involved in the same things.”

The integration of service into Direct Supply’s community partnerships, Klein said, is integral to creating a work environment filled with care for others.

Direct Supply is not just a unique organization because of the integrated service aspect. The employees are not actually employees at all — they each partially own the company, making them partners. Klein said this very fact creates an atmosphere in which the company becomes more than just a place of work.

“It’s not just coming to work and grabbing your paycheck and going home. We know that the success of our company depends on us,” Klein said. “We want to motivate our partners — our owners — to really feel like, ‘If I own this place, I’m going to do more than just come sit at my desk, do a good job. I’m going to engage to make this place better.’”

Having a mindset of ownership and engagement carries over to how partners have mobilized themselves around various programs through Direct Supply under Jordan’s leadership. According to Direct Supply’s Social Impact Summary, in 2019, Direct Supply partners held or participated in 376 community events, which is up 17% from 2018; 111 partners led community service events, which is up 8% from 2018; partners, family members and friends spent 11,673 hours doing community service, which is up 12% from 2018; 54% of partners volunteered to support the community — a 6% increase from 2018 — contrasting with a national average of 30%.

“Sharon’s leadership, the concept of engagement, the concept of ownership … it all ties together, and then ultimately it’s all better for not only our partners in our company, but for the community,” Klein said.

Creating a work environment in which partners want to support community efforts begins with company leadership supporting partners. Klein said the mentorship Jordan provides is paramount to the success of Direct Supply’s partners.

“Sharon is known as a steady voice, as a savvy individual, as a person who really embraces our culture and knows what it means to strive in our culture,” Klein said. “So I think it just means a ton to everybody who crosses paths with her.”

Jordan’s efforts seem to give off ripple effects that go beyond Direct Supply.

“My goal is to motivate and encourage co-workers, friends and family members, to share their talents, networks, resources and treasures to also provide assistance to organizations in need, because lives do depend on it,” Jordan said.

She emphasized that making a difference is possible, no matter how little impact one feels they have.

“Every day I remember and live by an old African proverb my mother once told me. It goes, ‘If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try going to sleep in a closed room with a mosquito,’” Jordan said. “My challenge to everyone is to try to make a difference while the book of life is still open.”

Categories: People

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