How does something that started out as a group of friends gathering on a Sunday afternoon to watch some football evolve into a major force for good in Ozaukee County? Even though he denies it, Tom “Mel” Stanton is the driving force behind what has become Mel’s Pig Roast Charities, the 501(c)3 organization he founded to offer “Great Times for Great Causes” and which since 1999 has donated more than $400,000 to assist individuals and groups throughout Ozaukee County, Wisconsin.
A transplant from Cleveland – and avid Browns fan, Stanton moved to Cedarburg after graduating from UW Oshkosh. A number of his college friends were from Cedarburg and he appreciated the unique small-town feel of the place and decided to make it his home. Fast forward to 1995 – Stanton and some friends got together at a local bowling alley to roast a pig and watch the Packers vs Browns and it immediately became an annual tradition. In 1999, one of Stanton’s best friends’ sister passed away from cancer, leaving behind a daughter with special needs. The group decided to hold a raffle to generate some good will and raised $350 which was donated to Special Olympics in her memory. As Stanton explains it, “We couldn’t bring his sister back, but each year, this Community can put a smile on their face and we will never forget her.” The seed was planted.
The next year, the friends invited friends, the group grew and they generated $700, which was donated to Special Olympics. The friends started selling tickets to the annual gathering which is always centered around a Sunday afternoon Packers game, a logo was designed and in 2000 Mel’s became an official 501(c)3 non-profit organization. By 2003 it had outgrown the space inside the bowling alley, so they began placing a 6,000 square foot tent on the grounds to accommodate the crowds and ensure that all those who attend fully enjoy the day. As Stanton explains, “People started to donate things” to the event…a tent, tables, chairs, big screen TVs, their time; sponsors came forward; a “working” Board of Directors was formed; high school football teams appeared to help with event set-up and takedown. And all the while, Stanton says he was just “surrendering” to a much larger process and “feeling pushed in the right direction.”
The organization might bear his nickname but it has taken on a life if its own and Stanton is all about directing the spotlight away from himself and onto the volunteers and the beneficiaries of his work. His heart is warmed regularly by stories he hears from and about people who have benefitted from donations they received through Mel’s Charities and many more can be found on the organization’s website. “It’s like hearing your song play on the radio for the first time. I am blessed every day.” When their main sponsor of the TVs for the annual raffle recently went out of business, some on the board were worried but within 24 hours a local appliance dealer had stepped up to take over. “People have come out of the woodwork to help us and I am so grateful.”
Stanton may “think of this stuff 24/7” but he has a real job to pay the bills that requires his time and attention along with a loving wife who is very supportive and constantly amazed by the course their lives have taken.
Even though there may have been a larger force at work, In 2011 Stanton and his “behind the scenes” team knew they needed to give considerable thought to the future of the organization. That is when they turned to SCORE. “We met with mentor Cindy Lange and that got the ball rolling. Cindy and SCORE helped us to focus and gave us a clear picture of who we are, where we are and where we want to go.” The group has gone on to develop their core values, strategic initiatives and to define objectives and goals for the organization that will take it into the coming years. “SCORE gave me a roadmap and opened my eyes. Once I put it all on paper into their template I figured out we are doing something right.”
Going into its sixteenth year, Mel’s Pig Roast Charities now sponsors pig-themed golf, slow-pitch softball and bowling tournaments, a Chinooks outing and a 5K run/walk (“run your tail off and cross the finish swine”) - each with its own unique themed smiling pig logo. As a result the organization has donated more than $400,000 to local causes that support human service, special needs and scholarships in memory of many local young people who have been taken too soon. “Our goal has always been to help people we knew who have been through tough times and to ensure that we will never forget those who we have lost.”
Stanton explains that the success of Mel’s Pig Roast Charities “is all about relationships” which is true of any successful business – for profit or not. And all this can be attributed to guy who, as a self-proclaimed not-so-stellar college student, was told, “If you can just learn to talk to people, you might have a shot.” Lesson learned.
In 2011 Stanton and his “behind the scenes” team knew they needed to give considerable thought to the future of the organization. That is when they turned to SCORE. “We met with mentor Cindy Lange and that got the ball rolling. Cindy and SCORE helped us to focus and gave us a clear picture of who we are, where we are and where we want to go.” The group has gone on to develop their core values, strategic initiatives and to define objectives and goals for the organization that will take it into the coming years. “SCORE gave me a roadmap and opened my eyes. Once I put it all on paper into their template I figured out we are doing something right.”