I have had the pleasure of writing profiles about the last five recipients of the award. They are among the thousands of stories I've written in the decades I've served as a journalist.
I can tell you I won't forget the Wheels to Work program championed by 2017 Humanitarian winner Kent Olson of Olson Tire Pros & Auto Service of Wausau, Wis., whereby he helped refurbish vehicles that were sold to clients who needed transportation in order to get to work.
Or the after-school food program that 2018 winner Mark Smith of Midas of Richmond, Va., supports. One child waited hours in case another child didn't claim a bag of food he needed for the weekend.
Bob Kellogg, the 2019 recipient, and his dad Wayne were instrumental in providing a group home to help transition troubled youths into adulthood. Everyone in the tiny town of Queensbury, N.Y., seems to know Bob, Wayne or Bob's impressive daughter, Megan, the faces of Warren Tire Service Center Inc.
Although the pandemic prevented me from traveling to visit last year's winner, Rodrigo Valle Hernandez of Tijuana, Mexico's Grupo Tersa, his philanthropy in supporting causes from kids with cancer to end-of-life care was admirable by itself. That Mr. Valle was battling severe health issues himself while doing this is, well, head-shakingly impressive.
Then there is this year's winner, Ron Katz. The Midas of West Palm Beach, Fla., dealer is a relative newcomer to the tire and automotive service industry — it was six years in July — and he is still trying to establish himself and his brand in the three markets he serves.
It has not kept him from doing whatever he can to better his community.
The stories of his philanthropy range from entertaining — befriending a Rod Stewart look-alike and holding a benefit for the impersonator's cancer-stricken wife — to deadly serious — his Project Spark initiative provided a vehicle to help clients afflicted with the incurable sickle cell disease.
What makes this year's winner fascinating is his affinity, and outright imitation, of Mr. Smith, the 2018 winner.
Mr. Katz admits he basically trolled Mr. Smith and his LinkedIn page, hoping to steal and adapt some of his ideas to Mr. Katz' propensity to give back.
"I called and asked (Mr. Smith) a few questions," Mr. Katz said. "I tried to take it to the next level, to make it my own here in West Palm Beach."
Mr. Katz started his humanitarian quest with blood drives, an integral part of Mr. Smith's community involvement.
'I learned from Mark the importance of giving back as a way to make our business bigger," Mr. Katz said. "And the best thing about giving back is this: It feels good every time."
It came full circle last year when Mr. Katz was the inaugural recipient of the Mark Smith Community Involvement Award, given to a Midas franchisee who goes above and beyond for their communities. Mr. Smith hand-picked the winner.
"I think anybody in our business knows there is a unwritten, unsaid quid pro quo: You choose us to take care of your cars, and we choose to take care of your community," Mr. Smith said. "And the synergy you can create there, it's obvious across the nation."
Mr. Katz, like many of the other winners of the Humanitarian Medal, credits his upbringing, specifically his mom, for his charitable nature.
"She raised me the right way," Mr. Katz said.
It's how he runs his business.
"I tell people all the time, I'm treating you like I'm treating my mom. I'm not just saying that. It's true."
Mr. Katz shared story after story of how he goes out of his way, be it for a customer or employee. There was the time he paid for a new tire for a first responder. Or the time he covered the cost of a water pump for a lady who was seeking a job. Or the one in which he fixed a car for a man who lived in it, then not only allowed him to park it in his lot, but gave him a temporary job as a porter.
He takes as much pleasure in taking an employee out for a night on the town as the employee.
And when that employee quits without a proper notice, he'll do it again for the next employee.
"I can't help it," he said. "It's just the way I am."
Mr. Katz, like the four humanitarians who preceded him, said business is all about relationships.
"Everything I do is about building relationships, talking to people," he said. "When we did that charity for (the Rod Stewart impersonator)'s wife, that was about building a relationship. You want to be the person with a good reputation that does the right thing."
These humanitarians aren't just an example for the tire industry; they are a shining example of the best of humankind.
They are an inspiration.
"Anyone who in the service sector and the retail sector who becomes aware of what Ron has done and doesn't do anything about it is missing the bus," Mr. Smith said. "We're all in the commodity business. We can talk about the bright lights and glory, but the simple fact of the matter is, I change oil for a living. So do a bunch of other people in Richmond.
"What sets us apart are our people and what we do in the community," he said.
"What sets Ron apart are his people and what he does in the community. There is nothing we do, for those so inclined, that can't be duplicated."
Mr. Katz was asked why he does what he does. His answer was simple, yet unique.
"Why not?" he said. "If you can, you should."