Philanthropy was the topic of conversation during a Tuesday morning breakfast meeting hosted by the , but guest speaker Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson couldn't resist opening his speech without a quick jab at his Wayne County counterpart Robert Ficano.
"I would like to introduce myself. I'm Brooks Patterson. I'm the other county exec,” Patterson said to a group of about 50 nonprofit representatives from Oakland County while referencing an article in Tuesday's Detroit News comparing the number of political appointees of Oakland and Wayne counties.
Patterson, known for his successful and failed attempts at humor, used the joke to transition into efforts to keep Oakland County on sound financial footing and his personal efforts to help communities in the county through volunteer and charity work.
"I've never spoken on this subject," Patterson said. "I feel, in some ways, that if you are really a philanthropist, you don't talk about it."
However, Patterson's work with the nonprofits he established in the wake of tragedy in his life became the main focus of the meeting, entitled Philanthropy Brooks' Way: A Case for Goodwill in Life and Business.
Patterson spoke for about a half hour about the success of the Rainbow Connection and The Brooksie Way, both of which were established to commemorate the loss of friends and family. The first Patterson founded following the loss of a close friend and his children who perished in a 1980 plane crash. The Brooksie Way was founded in honor of his son L. Brooks "Brooksie" Patterson Jr., who died from injuries sustained in a 2007 snowmobile accident.
Focusing on increasing health and raising money to combat childhood obesity, Patterson explained the spirit behind The Brooksie Way comes from his son's eulogy.
"If you are going to live life, go for the deepest snow – do it the Brooksie Way. If you are going to go white-water rafting, go for the biggest rapids – do it the Brooksie Way," Patterson said.
"I'm not sure it qualifies as philanthropy, but it was a way of giving back to the community," he said of his efforts.
The breakfast at the in Troy, was sponsored by Troy-based Meritor Inc.
Chip McClure, president and CEO of Meritor, said charitable efforts and volunteerism is a large part of the company's character and contributes to the success of the communities where its employees live and work.
Meritor encourages employees to volunteer their time throughout the year, spokeswoman Julie Garrisi said.
"That's how we at Meritor are truly sustaining our community relations and our philanthropic work, is through our employee volunteerism," Garrisi said. "We have more and more employees out (volunteering) now than we had five or six years ago. That is certainly something we are concentrating on now, more than ever."