In 1983, Bob McBride received an invitation to join what was then called the Nonconnah Exchange Club. Thirty-four years later, the organization has a different name – it’s now the Exchange Club of Greater Memphis – but one thing hasn’t changed. McBride is still giving back to an organization that’s made a big impact on his life and on his heart.
Through that work and through his work with other nonprofits, McBride has made an even bigger impact on the lives of others.
Not long before McBride joined his local Exchange Club, the national organization adopted child abuse prevention as its major philanthropic mission. Working with other Exchange Clubs in Memphis, McBride’s club helped launch the Exchange Club Family Center, which works with children and families to break the cycle of violence and abuse so children don’t grow up to become child abusers.
At the end of the day, this is what drives McBride to give back to the organization year after year.
“What touches me the most is knowing – not believing or thinking, but it’s knowing – that we’re making a difference,” said McBride, owner of State Systems Inc., a total protection company that offers fire protection equipment, training and cleaning services, and more. “I hear and see situations that are shared with us in board meetings of the difference we’re making. If you can help one family break the cycle of abuse, then you’re helping a child – maybe saving a child’s life, but at a minimum making a child’s life better.”
Today, McBride is a member of the Exchange Club Family Center’s board of directors, and he’s served off and on as board president. Not only has he been involved with the nonprofit since its inception, but when he purchased State Systems along with his father in 1986, he got his company involved, as well.
“While our company was small we gave time and what little money we had for those endeavors,” McBride said. “As our businesses have grown we’ve been able to give more financial support and probably less time. But I try to devote a good amount of time to the Family Center.”
State Systems supports fund-raising efforts to benefit Exchange Club Family Center year after year, including the organization’s annual golf tournament and its annual gala. The company also helps the center by proffering its own professional services.
“We give back to the Family Center by providing work they would normally pay for – fire extinguisher and fire alarm inspections,” McBride said. “We donate as much as we can. Our teams go out there and give that time.”
As a board member, McBride blends his head for business with his heart for volunteerism, said Jennifer Balink, Exchange Club Family Center executive director.
“He is thoughtful and careful and looks at things very analytically, and he’s able to read and digest and think about and ask very good questions to help guide decision making,” Balink said. “He is often the person in board meetings who will ask tough questions related to funding or programming or events. He’s sort of everything you could want in a board member – he’s a leader to help guide long-range planning and to help make individual decisions. He’s a good sounding board. He follows through with what he says he’s going to do, and he expects the same of others. He’s good at holding other people accountable and making sure that everyone is contributing to move things forward.”
McBride’s community involvement and dedication to giving back to the Memphis community doesn’t stop at the doors to the Family Center, however. In line with the company’s work, State Systems is also an avid supporter of the Memphis Fire Museum. McBride’s brother, Tyler McBride, is a member of the museum board’s executive committee.
“They do a lot of good work with fire initiatives and fire education and supporting the local fire units,” McBride said. “They have a 5K they’re going to do this year for first time, and we’ll be one of the major sponsors of it also.”
Another organization McBride actively supports is Shelby Residential and Vocational Services (SRVS), which provides services for people with disabilities. McBride serves on the SRVS board of directors, and State Systems donates to the organization, including to its annual gala.
SRVS executive director Tyler Hampton echoed Balink’s praise of the business instincts McBride brings to his board position. As with the Exchange Club Family Center and the Fire Museum, McBride has found ways to leverage his expertise and resources in ways that are helpful to the organization beyond writing checks and putting in volunteer hours.
“At one point our board chairman asked if Bob could look at our fleet of vehicles,” Hampton said, adding that McBride brought in his own team members who take care of State Systems’ vehicles to inspect the SRVS fleet and make suggestions. “He worked up a plan that basically was going to save us money every year. We’ve implemented a lot of the plan that he gave us. His talents, his time – he’s just been very supportive of SRVS.”
McBride’s commitment to the community runs deeper still. He’s also heavily involved in the Chickasaw Council, Boy Scouts of America, serving on the organization’s advisory board after four years on its board of directors. His son is also a board member.
“Again, we support their fund-raising efforts, and we’re the main sponsor for their golf tournament,” McBride said.
Why is giving back such an important part of Bob McBride’s life?
“We’ve always been community minded,” he said of State Systems. “I like to say we, but it starts at the top. I think it’s just a personal responsibility to reach out and help in all the ways that we can. How do you explain who you are? It’s just a personal belief that’s important to me, that the organization do as much as we possibly can to lift and help others. We’ve been greatly blessed and it’s an opportunity to share our resources, and we try to do that as much as we can.”
Not only does McBride believe in giving back, he believes in it for the right reasons.
“I never joined any of the boards to network and make money,” McBride said. “I never got into it because I thought it was going to help the business. I always did it because I thought it was the right thing to do for the community, to give back.”
Balink said one of McBride’s best qualities is his ability to see the good in the community, thereby helping good things happen.
“He’s able to ask critical thinking questions without being critical,” Balink said. “And he never loses the belief that the right thing will happen. He believes that, and not in a naïve way, but in a way that I think gives other people courage and endurance to keep going. I hope people read this piece and are inspired to be just like him.”
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