CINCINNATI (October 11, 2022) — United Way Tocqueville Society member Mike Kremzar abides by the belief that life consists of three phases: learn, earn and return.
The phases overlap a bit, and they often – but not always – are chronological. We go to school to learn. Then we go to work to earn a living. And then? “Well, you’ve got to return,” Mike says. That is, give back. “How can you help others?”
Mike has been living mostly in the “return” stage since retiring in 1998 from Procter & Gamble, where he was Vice President of Customer Service Product Supply Worldwide. It’s no exaggeration to say tens of thousands of people in the community have benefited from his countless hours of volunteer work as well as the charitable gifts he and Marilyn, his wife of 64 years, have made.
Consider this: While serving on the United Way of Greater Cincinnati board and its executive committee, Mike had a lead role in establishing the 211 Helpline, which United Way launched in this region on 2/11/2003.
“My worry always on things like this is, do we have enough structure?” he says. “Does the organization buy into it enough? You’ve got to make sure a program you develop has enough oomph in it so it’ll stick.”
Indeed, it has. Now one of UWGC’s signature programs, the 211 Helpline last year received 88,582 calls from people throughout the eight-county coverage area in Ohio and Kentucky. Trained call specialists connected those callers to vital community resources involving housing, utilities, food, income support and more.
Mike also has served on the boards of two United Way partners, the Freestore Foodbank and Every Child Succeeds. During his tenure as Freestore board chairman, he helped develop the Rubber Duck Regatta fundraiser and the Cincinnati COOKS! culinary job training program for under- and unemployed people.
In addition, he helped start Crayons to Computers, a nonprofit that ensures teachers can provide students with the tools they need to succeed.
But don’t get the impression that even in retirement he’s an all-work-and-no-play guy. Mike now travels with Marilyn and enjoys time with family, including four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Still, he never intended for his retirement to be all about rest and relaxation. “It seems if you spend all your time just lying on a beach, you’re going to die then,” he says.
Mike’s motivation to make a difference stems in part from observing his father, who retired to Florida after an Air Force career. “He struggled a bit finding something to do in retirement. I thought, no, no, no. That man was too active, too intelligent and had too much energy. He needed to be doing something.”
Mike didn’t wait until retirement to give back. He served on the Freestore board while still at P&G, where the corporate culture encourages employees to engage in community outreach. And his relationship with United Way goes back even further, starting with a workforce campaign early in his 39-year P&G career.
Over the years, he saw firsthand how United Way works to build stronger communities.
“I trust the process at United Way,” he says. “I’ve been inside United Way and I know the kind of people who are there, the work they do, the attitude they have, what they’re trying to achieve. I trust that.”
In 1990, when Mike was Manager of Manufacturing of P&G’s Food and Beverage Division, he was randomly selected to be a clown with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus during a “P&G only” night. Wearing makeup and outfitted with supersized shoes, baggy outfit, bright orange wig and hat, he worked the crowd, waving at children and having his picture taken. He even had a moment in center ring, performing a skit with the chief clown. His wife, Marilyn, son, and some P&G friends were about 20 rows up, and Marilyn was the only one who recognized him.
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