History of Community Service
BY BARBARA FRANKEL
Thomas M. (Tim) Belk Jr. is taking his family’s long history of community service to an entirely new level, with an emphasis on
the value of diversity.
Belk is only the third member of his family in 122 years to be CEO and
chairman of Belk Inc., the department-store chain with more than 300
stores in 16 southern states. His two predecessors included his Uncle John,
who led the company for 50 years and also spent eight years as the mayor
of Charlotte, N.C., where Belk is headquartered.
“Community involvement is part of our business strategy. It was that
way when my grandfather founded the company and my dad and uncle
raised us that way. Business, community and diversity go hand in hand,”
says Belk, who is also chairman of the company’s diversity council.
The company’s strong values are critical to its sustainability, says Belk.
“Values serve as rudders during stormy times; they keep you focused on what’s most important,” he says, adding
that diversity is a core value because “different ideas make for good decision making. We want our middle- and
upper-management team to understand our consumers—it will drive business and drive sales.”
Noting that private companies such as Belk can take a long-term view without being forced to manage to
quarterly earnings, he emphasizes the deep-rooted community connection. He established the Charlotte Chamber
of Commerce’s Belk Innovation in Diversity Award, which now has also been started in Birmingham, Ala.
Observing the changing demographics of his customers, he says, “We want to create a
welcoming and inclusive shopping environment … Diversity has a direct link to sales.”
Changing Lives Through Education
BY SAM ALI
© 2010 DiversityInc
Rhonda Mims’ career is not your typical climbing-the-corporate- ladder kind of story.
After graduating from the University of South Carolina with a law
degree in 1993, she worked as a district attorney in Charleston County.
Then, she headed the criminal-prosecution division at the South Carolina
attorney general’s office. She moved on to the U.S. Department of Justice under
the Clinton administration, enforcing the nation’s environmental laws when
companies violated the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act.
Today, Mims is president of the ING Foundation, the charitable giving arm of ING. She
recently also took on the role of senior vice president for corporate responsibility and multicultural affairs.
“When I was a prosecutor many, many, many years ago, I would go into a courtroom and I’m African American
and I would look around and all the defendants were African American. Instead of prosecuting everyone and having
this outstanding prosecution rate, it was more important for me to help people,” she says. “I focused on trying to get
folks justice … and always tried to think of alternative programming for first-time offenders.”
Her focus at ING has been urban financial literacy and education, particularly for high-school students. This
year, ING partnered with Girls Inc. to launch an innovative financial-literacy and empowerment program that gives
participating high-school girls hands-on investing experience, allowing them to keep their gains in the form of
“We can talk about getting folks with diverse backgrounds into corporate America, but if they don’t have the tools
in order to survive and manage their dollars, then it won’t work,” she says.
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