The Clark Family
Giving Through the Generations
As far back as Jim Clark can remember, his family has always felt like it was important to be involved in United Way. Jim’s grandfather, B.C. Clark, supported United Way, as did his father, B.C. Clark Jr. “We’re always happy to support it and we think it’s the best avenue for us to give to charity. We’ve always felt that way,” Jim said. Their loyalty is demonstrated by the fact that Jim has been a contributor for 51 years, with sons Coleman and Mitchell following his example and donating for 19 and 14 years, respectively. The Clarks appreciate that United Way makes it easy to give because you can give to one organization and trust that your gift will support several accountable, local charities. Coleman added, “We feel it’s our duty, because we’ve had so many loyal customers and so many people that have done so much for us to make us a successful business, to give back to the community.”
Both Jim and Coleman have served as community investment volunteers and describe their experiences as enlightening. “It’s a testimony to the fact that United Way is giving to the right charities,” Jim said. “They vet their charities every year and makes sure that they are still accomplishing what they are supposed to accomplish, that there aren’t too many overlaps of types of charities, and that the organizations are run properly and are fundamentally sound, financially.” Jim has also experienced United Way’s annual community investment process as a member of the Sunbeam Family Services board of directors. “I can remember very well sitting on the other side of the table and justifying what we did, how we did it and how we spent our money. That always impressed me because, again, I knew that someone was watching over these charities and making sure that they were doing what’s best for the city in a very efficient way.”
The Clark family’s support of United Way is further demonstrated during BC Clark Jewelers’ annual employee workplace campaign. They believe it is important for the family to take a leadership role within their company’s campaign and ensure that their employees understand how critically important United Way is to the community. “We make it a point to go to all three stores and speak to our employees about United Way,” Coleman said. “We encourage people not to designate their gift unless there’s an agency that they feel strongly about, because we know how many hours and effort go into determining where the money’s best spent, from the agencies that prepare the proposals to the community investment volunteers who review them.” They always strive to have 100% employee participation during their United Way campaign, although they don’t force it. The results speak for themselves: BC Clark Jewelers is a top 20 campaign amongst mid-size companies, with their employee campaign raising more than $20,000 each year for the past 14 years. The Clarks contribute as individuals through their employee campaign, as well as contribute a corporate gift through the company. In Jim’s words, “We don’t consider the company’s gift our gift, even though we own the company. We believe it’s important to give as individuals as well. We know the kind of work United Way does here and how important it is to central Oklahoma. We support it fully.”
In honor of BC Clark Jewelers 125th anniversary, the Clark family provided United Way with a generous $125,000 matching grant opportunity. When asked why they chose United Way as their recipient, Coleman said, “We considered a lot of different agencies – giving $25,000 to one, $25,000 to another, and so on—and then we thought about it and realized if we were going to split the money and get the most out of it, United Way would be the perfect place to give it to. We knew United Way’s agencies had plenty of need for it and would make the best use of the funds.” Then the idea of using it as a match to encourage new contributions to United Way’s campaign was discussed. “We decided that was the best way to try to maximize what we were doing for the greater good,” Coleman said. This generous gift, when combined with the new dollars it helped to generate, contributed more than $500,000 to the 2017 annual campaign – a true testament to the Clark family’s ongoing legacy of giving.