AUGUSTA — When Sue Grenier graduated from Lewiston High School in 1979, she didn’t know what she wanted to do.
She got a two-year accounting degree from the University of Southern Maine, but she quickly realized the field wasn’t for her. Grenier later went to cosmetology school and ran a salon, but she didn’t find her passion until she started volunteer work.
Grenier, 52, previously worked for the American Lung Association and helped with the Trek Across Maine, the organization’s annual charity bike ride across the state. Now, at G&E Roofing, volunteering is part of her job.
Grenier assists the sales and marketing team at the Augusta roofing company on Riverside Drive, but she also volunteers on the boards of various causes and organizations on behalf of the company.
“She’s always waving the company flag,” said Norm Elvin, president and founder of the company. “She is Miss G&E Roofing.”
For her volunteer work, Grenier will receive the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Community Service Award at the chamber’s annual banquet on Jan. 24 at the Augusta Civic Center. The Kennebec Journal is a member of the chamber.
Grenier, who has been with the company for about eight years, said Elvin asked her if she would like to represent the company in its volunteering and community outreach efforts. Elvin, a former president of the Kennebec Valley YMCA board, said Grenier has stepped up to do the type of work he has done for the community in the past.
“She has done a great job in getting people in the area to realize that we have a community that is less fortunate, and if everybody does a little bit, it really means a lot,” he said.
Grenier, of Augusta, has been the board chair and pacesetter chair for the United Way of Kennebec Valley, a board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters and co-chair of Kennebec Valley YMCA auctions and golf tournaments. She has also been a costumed waitress for the Sexual Assault Crisis & Support Center’s annual celebrity dinners.
“For me it has to be about fun. There has to be fun involved too. It can’t all be serious. I think that keeps people engaged,” Grenier said.
Elvin had lots of praise for Grenier’s work ethic and attitude. He said she’s very energetic, always smiling and is a great person to be around.
“She’s one of those people that if you want something done, you ask her. She’s very busy but she gets things done,” Elvin said. “Whatever Sue does, she does it with a smile.”
Grenier sees volunteering as a lifestyle for her, but it’s also part of the company culture at G&E Roofing, she said. That comes from Elvin himself, Grenier said.
“Norm has supported all of that. It would be hard to be able to do what I’ve been able to do without his effort, without his support,” she said.
Elvin said his desire to give back to the community came from his parents, who both volunteered their time for community groups. He’s encouraged it at the company, which Elvin said has had 100 percent participation in United Way of Kennebec Valley’s annual fundraising campaign for at least a decade.
“When I got the chance to give back, I really wanted to,” he said. “I have a huge need to give back. To me, it completes the circle.”
Nationally, charitable giving, at $316.23 billion in 2012, hasn’t yet reached pre-recession levels. It dropped significantly in 2008 and 2009, from an inflation-adjusted high of over $340 billion to around $300 billion, according to a 2013 report by Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
United Way of Kennebec Valley, which raises money for more than 50 area social service programs and organizations, saw a similar drop in donations. The totals generally have been increasing since 2009 but haven’t returned to pre-recession levels, according to past tax forms.
In Maine, the trends in the percentage of people who volunteer and average number of volunteer hours per resident have been going in the opposite direction, both generally dropping since 2009, according to Volunteering and Civic Life in America.
The percentage of people who volunteer fell from over 34 percent in 2009 to close to 32 percent in 2012. The average numbers of hours residents volunteer went from about 49 to 40 hours from 2009 to 2012.
However, both Elvin and Grenier also credited people in the Kennebec Valley community with being very charitable. Elvin said there have been several projects in recent years, including Cony High School, the Kennebec Valley YMCA, Lithgow Public Library and the MaineGeneral Health’s new hospital, where community members have stepped up to the plate during fundraising efforts.
Grenier said she’s encountered that first hand when asking for donations.
“We have a really generous community if you think about all the stuff that goes on here,” she said. “It’s not a big community, but you rarely hear no. Someone is always able to do something.”