The Best Day Out of 26 Years at GM: Paying it Forward at SOBCon 2011
By: Connie Burke
May 3, 2011 4:04 pm CT
When “they” ask me at my retirement party (they, meaning the swarms of paparazzi) about my all-time favorite memories in my illustrious 85-year General Motors career (I plan ahead, and I’m in good health), I’ve already got it covered.
It will be extremely hard to top the honor I had to represent GMC at SOBCon (Successful Online Business) Chicago 2011, when I handed over a set of keys to a beautiful new GMC Terrain to a very deserving and very surprised Mark Horvath of InvisiblePeople.tv. Mark has dedicated himself tirelessly to the cause of helping those who aren’t in a position to help themselves: the homeless. Having once been homeless himself and fearing that he might be again one day, Mark is on a mission to help the homeless “scream as loud as they can” about the plight.
Armed with a camera, an open heart and open mind, Mark travels the country for speaking engagements, attending conferences and seeking out those in tent cities and in homeless shelters to help them tell their own story. He also teaches some how to use social media tools to better their situation – it’s hard to apply for a job when you don’t have an address, but it’s easier if you have email. For this, he won the Pepsi Refresh Challenge Grant last year at SXSW, one of the largest interactive conferences in the nation.
So here’s a guy who, when he’s invited to conferences, will choose to seek out people on the street and help them find housing for the night, rather than attend the social events such as dinners and parties. He’s given his rent money to strangers, and has no qualms about handing over his last dollar on a cold, rainy night. He hands out supplies such as socks and toiletries, and braves sub-zero temps as well as 114 degree heat in the summer, because that’s what some homeless people are dealing with, full-time.
As a major sponsor of SOBCon, an elite annual gathering and “think tank” of the top 150 practitioners of social media, GMC wanted to do something meaningful. Since GMC’s theme has been “Never Say Never” and Mark Horvath embodies the spirit of determination and the perseverance of the Road Warrior, it seemed fitting to provide him with his mobile office for 2011 in the form of a GMC Terrain, equipped with WiFi and premium OnStar services.
The fact that we cram-packed the back of the Terrain (which has segment-leading cargo space, by the way) full of individual snacks and supplies for Mark to hand out as he makes his way across the country was simply icing on the icing – it’s what really moved him. He’s a humble guy who feels that it’s not so much about the brands behind him but rather the relationships – he seemed very touched that GMC would go the extra mile and start him off with all the provisions he would need.
But wait, there’s more: Murphy USA stepped up, and is providing Mark with a year’s worth of free fuel. McDonald’s threw in some free food certificates for him to hand out as well. As SOBCon co-founders Liz Strauss and Terry St. Marie noted, “This is what community is truly all about.”
To donate or to follow Mark’s progress as he spreads hope and support, log on to http://invisiblepeople.tv/blog/.