The hardest part of being a philanthropist for Greg Sudds appears to be being recognized for being a philanthropist.
The Belleville Chamber of Commerce Cornerstone Award for Citizenship recognizes a member who has given back to the community in a substantial way through time, talent, resources and/or money. Greg Sudds is the recipient for 2023 and accepted with some reluctance - “I am not a big ‘limelight’ kind of guy,” he said. “I was probably the last person I would think of for this. This isn’t me. I would not set out on a path to obtain recognition. That is not my motivation at all. It’s just organic that it has happened that way.”
But he has also realized sharing one’s commitment to the community can help to inspire others to do the same.
While Greg has been quietly active many organizations and causes for years, it was his recent role as chair of the Humane Society of Hastings Prince Edward capital campaign and his inspirational matching grant campaign that thrust him into the public eye perhaps more than he would like.
Greg describes his childhood as the youngest of four as one filled with compassion, and as the son of an OPP officer father and a mother in the medical profession, he learned at an early age to always be helpful and kind. “They were just good people who laid the foundation,” he said. “They taught me, if nothing else – be kind. I think that was always there growing up.” They also moved around a lot which forced him into developing the talent for getting to know people.
He saw those same attributes in his teen years when, at 17, he went to work at a local car dealership in Strathroy. The owner was affable, part of the community who was modestly successful and gave back. He says he remembered thinking at the time if he ever followed a career in the car business, “this would be the role model for me.”
He also recalls his job washing cars with the last name of Sudds didn’t go unnoticed by his co-workers. It’s this kind of insight that helps describe the person Greg is – humble with the ability to laugh at himself – quick to help to neighbor or even pick up a shovel to help at the Log Cabin.
He decided to pursue a career in the car industry, and started with the Automotive Marketing program from Georgian and then transferring the diploma to complete a Business Administration degree through the Northwood Institute in West Palm Beach, Fla. He was on a placement through Desrosiers Auto Research with Toyota Canada in Toronto where he met his future wife, Christine, who was there for a co-op placement the same time. His first visit to Belleville (for Waterfront Festival no less), was when she announced she was coming back to Belleville, where her father owned West City Honda.
They were engaged a year later, bought a house and were married a year after that as Greg joined the family business in a sales position in 1993 and Christine remained involved but by 1998, with 3 children under 3 she stepped into the full-time role of motherhood and Greg was appointed to General Manager in 1999.
Greg first joined Quinte Sunshine Rotary and Belleville Sales & Ad Clubs but as the father of three young children – Kyle, Spencer and Emily – he managed his volunteer engagement for a while but as they got older, continued to get more involved and served as president of Belleville Sales & Ad in 2014-15. He came onto the Board of the Belleville Chamber of Commerce in 2016 and then, he recalls being approached by the Humane Society Hastings Prince Edward (HPE) the year he was preparing to become president of the Chamber in the midst of the pandemic.
“With the Humane Society, the timing was right,” he said. “Our family has always had an affinity toward animals. I have always raised animals and cared for animals and it was just a natural fit. And it was a real eye-opener learning the needs of the local humane society.
“From my experience advocating with the Chamber and the different skill sets that you learn from different organizations, it was similar but different. Instead of advocating for the business community you are advocating for animal welfare which is especially inspiring given they can’t advocate for themselves.”
The $6 million capital campaign spearheaded the development of a new 16,000 square foot facility which opened its doors at 34 Wallbridge-Loyalist Road officially on Oct. 4, 2022. The Humane Society HPE houses some 2,200 animals a year.
Greg challenged others through the West City Honda Corporate Challenge, which provided matching contributions up to $100,000 to the Humane Society HPE’s It Takes Heart Capital Campaign.
The Corporate Challenge provided a big boost to the campaign, raising in excess of $250,000 and inspired the Belleville Chamber of Commerce Charity Challenge in 2022 that showcased 6 “challenges” and supported an additional five non-profit members and their causes.
Greg says he struggled with whether to go public with his support– he had just made a $50,000 donation to Hospice Quinte to honour his father-in-law – and wasn’t sure he wanted to be in the limelight even for a cause he believed in as strongly as the Humane Society HPE.
“When you are not someone who wants that kind of recognition, how do you put it out there?” he reflected. “That was probably my biggest struggle” but by going public, he had a fellow business person say ‘You inspired me to donate. When you donated, you made me think I can do more.’
“At the end of the day, it’s our community,” he said. “I look at it as the community has been supportive of us -- the family business -- for decades; it’s only right that we continue to give back.”
“I think that was probably the greatest satisfaction to know I made the right decision to go public with it because it inspired other people to give as well. That and when my daughter said she was proud of me for what I had done– that was very important to me.”
Greg notes he hopes he is passing the lessons he learned from his parents along to Kyle, Spencer and Emily to be a good person and to be kind. He says it is good advice for everyone and he urges people to do what they can do to make the community better.
“Do what you can do and don’t be afraid to get involved,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s our community so we all benefit by helping whether it’s time or financial… There are so many ways to give and make a difference. It’s easy to say no because you are busy. But say yes instead. I have been blessed in many respects with family and those types of things so it is important to give back. I am fortunate to be able to give back.”
“We are not an island. We are all in it together.”