Area Ace president climbs the volunteer ladder

Area Ace president climbs the volunteer ladder

August 30th, 2011 by Clint Cooper in Life Entertainment

Tom Glenn talks with Sandy B. Chambers following a United Way of Greater Chattanooga community campaign meeting.

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

Just as he did in his business career, Tom Glenn has climbed the ladder as a volunteer with the United Way of Greater Chattanooga.

Once an accountant for a local cluster of Ace Hardware stores, he is now president of The Helpful Group, a limited liability company comprised of 17 Ace Hardware stores and related real estate partnerships. His group, in fact, is one of Ace Hardware Corp.'s top 10 affiliate groups.

With the United Way, Glenn has moved in 20 years from a member of the allocations panel to chairman of the 2011 annual community campaign.

His next volunteer position after the allocations committee, the finance committee, was the real eye-opener, he said.

"[It] gave me a new insight," Glenn said, "and was really the platform for me to become more deeply involved in many other capacities in the future."

He followed that by serving as treasurer, chairman of the finance committee, executive committee member, chairman of the endowment committee, sponsor of the organization's Day of Caring and then campaign chairman.

Late last week, Glenn unveiled the organization's goals for its 90th community campaign -- an $11.5 million silver level and an $11.9 gold level.


  • Age: 52.
  • Hometown: Chickamauga, Ga.
  • Education: Bachelor's degree, University of Georgia; Masters of Business Administration, Duke University.
  • Family: Wife, Darlene; children, Lauren, 17, and Garrett, 14.


His first job after college was with the consulting division of Arthur Anderson & Co. in Charlotte, N.C.


Reading, exercising.


With his family, Tom Glenn said he enjoys bicycling, boating, traveling, walking Roscoe (the family dog) and the beach.

Q: What influenced you toward a life of giving back (in church, United Way and Ace Hardware, for example)?

A: I think it gives me too much credit to suggest my life is a life of giving back. I believe as humans we all struggle with pridefulness and being too focused on ourselves. Fortunately, God can work through us to help us at least partially overcome that. Those folks who work in the shadows and get little recognition or credit are my heroes. It just seems right for successful companies to give back to their communities. So we try to do our part. I can't tell you we do enough, because I don't know what enough is. But I do know that our people at Ace expect us to give back. Our business has been solid through this tough economy, and whereas some businesses have prudently stepped back during these times, it's up to others like us to step up. ... With a culture of helpfulness in the stores, it just makes sense for us to extend the same philosophy outside our four walls and into the community.

Q: How did you get involved with United Way?

A: Many years ago -- probably more than 20 years ago -- I first got involved with Chattanooga's [United Way] by serving on an allocations panel. I remember studying financial statements and other information from various agencies. One of my most memorable visits was with the local commander of the Salvation Army and a few of his board members. As a CPA, I felt their controls were weak and that they needed to tighten those up in order to earn the community's funding through United Way. I also remember being strongly impressed with how they did so much with so little. They are a great organization and ministry. My father has served on the board of the Salvation Army, and we financially support them today.

Q: How did your background at Ace Hardware give you a leg up in "selling" United Way?

A: I'm basically just a regular guy, so I think I generally understand regular people. So, I just try to articulate why I think United Way is so compelling, and usually I'm on the same page with other folks. At Ace, we're all about being helpful. Being helpful really depends on communicating effectively and on working as a team. In essence, isn't that what those of us working on the United Way campaign are trying to do?

Q: Why is the local United Way the best place for one's philanthropic dollars?

A: That's easy. Every dollar I give goes to services in the community. Our United Way is one of only seven out of [more than] 1,300 United Ways across the country that can make that claim. So, as a donor, I pay no administrative costs. On top of that, I can have the confidence that folks at United Way -- staff and volunteers -- are surveying our community to determine where the greatest needs are and then directing funding accordingly. Isn't that a great added value? For no cost! I think most of us want to give back to the community, but we struggle to identify where to give. [United Way] makes it easy.