CEO Insights: Where Would We Be Without Volunteers?

kerwin brown

I’ve always believed that those who volunteer are a special breed, and it’s interesting to discover how and why people choose to volunteer. I have noticed that for many, volunteering is less an inherent trait and more of a response to a call. Such a call typically invokes an eyes-first response. Eyes-up, one is ready to assume the call. Eyes looking down, one hopes the request is filled by someone else.

Yet the choice to volunteer is rarely so straightforward. Instead, it’s often a subtle dance of give and take, as people move and exchange roles – alternating being the recipient and the giver.


Anatomy of a Volunteer

I often wonder what motivates our volunteers and why they continue to give back to BEMA and the industry at large in such generous ways. Were they raised in a family that valued volunteering? Did they have a mentor who modeled the benefits? Do the relationships formed or the satisfaction from shaping the direction of an organization add to the value and keep them dedicated?

No matter which of these things keeps our members volunteering, we are grateful. In this month’s blog, I’d like to recognize three dedicated volunteers who recently completed their terms of service.

  • Mike Day, Board member
  • Kurt Miller, ABA representative/liaison
  • Dennis Gunnell, IBIE representative/liaison


Mike Day

As a third-generation owner of a family-owned business, Mike grew up in the industry and can always be counted on to offer a practical, no-nonsense approach. Mike first joined the BEMA Board of Directors in 2015, serving two full terms (six years) as a member. Mike’s contributions were always that of a trusted advocate – advocating for value – value for meetings, value for members and value for the industry.


Kurt Miller

Kurt has been a well-known fixture at BEMA events for over 20 years and first served on the Board of Directors in 2005.  He was BEMA Board Chairman during the development of BEMA Connect and also served as Chairman for the Market Research committee and the Convention and Programs Committee. Most recently he severed as the ABA representative/liaison, where he further strengthened the relationship between BEMA and ABA.


Dennis Gunnell

As a long-time volunteer, Dennis has served on the Board of Directors and as Past Chairman (2006-2007). He combined his leadership skills, international travel experience and an ongoing passion for education and industry to serve on the IBIE committee since 2007 in various roles.  Dennis currently serves as the IBIE chair for the 2022 show, a true culmination of his energy and commitment to BEMA, IBIE and the entire baking industry.


Continuing Commitment

More than 100 years ago, BEMA was founded on the concept of service to the industry. In one of the earliest documents, BEMA’s first president George Dean said, “The members of this Association have given freely and generously of their time and experience that they may advance the industry to the honored place it shall some time hold, as the first and most important industry of all-that of feeding the world with its most valuable product.”  Today, BEMA members like so many before Mike, Kurt and Dennis, continue to honor that commitment through the modern-day lens of servant leadership and connection, volunteering to serve on our Board and by leading our committees.

I was once quoted as saying, “Volunteers will always be the heart and soul of our organization.” That statement still rings true today. Thank you to all of our volunteers — past, present and future. BEMA would not be who we are and where we are without volunteers like you.

The heart of a volunteer is never measured in size, but by the depth of commitment to make a difference in the lives of others.” – DeAnn Hollis

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