SALT LAKE CITY — Jerry Winder presses his shovel into the cool dirt in the window well of a stranger’s home.
Although Winder is a businessman by profession, he follows in the legacy of a man who has taught him that community building lies at the heart of business.
Winder is one of 1,100 people who got up before dawn, with paintbrush and shovel in hand, to restore homes and parks in the community Friday to honor the legacy of Larry H. Miller, a friend, businessman and philanthropist.
Miller’s reach is far, said Winder, vice president of the Larry H. Miller Management Co.
“His work is more than just selling cars and tickets," he said. "It is taking care of the communities that he does business with.”
For Winder, the service projects are his way of remembering Miller.
“Larry’s favorite saying was, ‘Have a little fun, make a little money and take care of the customer.' But it goes beyond that. I have six children, and I haven’t paid one dime in tuition because of his scholarship foundation.
"He takes care of his customers, he takes care of his employees and he takes care of the community. And I hope that by being here, I can help continue such a work,” Winder said.
Miller, who died in February 2009, was a huge proponent of improving the communities where he conducted business. A year after his death, the Miller family initiated a corporate day of service to commemorate his many contributions.
Participating this year were employees of Larry H. Miller Group of Companies in seven Western states — Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington. Many wore matching T-shirts and volunteered in local cities, public schools, low-income neighborhoods and community agencies.
In Utah, nearly 600 employees volunteered at six locations along the Wasatch Front, from 8 a.m. to noon, helping to clean, paint, repair, landscape and care for the young and elderly.
Joe Krueger and Travis Henderson, both television producers for the Utah Jazz, spent the afternoon going back and forth with wheelbarrows.
“It’s been a long and productive day,” Henderson said. “We’ve been here since 8 a.m.”
For Henderson, being a Salt Lake resident and seeing all the places Miller's company and life have touched reminds him that he's part of something he wants to pass on.
“I’m sure I’ll bring my son by here at some point and I’ll say, ‘Look, this is the area that we helped out in and did something nice for people,'" he said.
Miller's legacy speaks for itself, Krueger said.
“I hope that in some small way I can contribute to what he started many years ago, long before I moved to Utah more than 15 years ago,” he said.
Cheryl Wells, a Larry H. Miller Group employee, spent the day digging in the flowerbeds and scraping paint off a local house.
“I look forward to the service project every year,” Wells said. “It’s the least we can do.”
Greg Miller, a son of Larry H. Miller, said the day means a lot to him personally.Comment on this story
“My dad always seemed to take the most satisfaction out of doing things like this, helping other people and giving back and being part of a group that was a force for good," he said, "and I think he would be smiling if he was here.”
Greg Miller, the Utah Jazz CEO, said the day encapsulated one of his father’s messages: “Go about doing good until there is too much good in the world.”
“My dad understood that giving back was an essential element of being successful,” added Brian Miller, another son. “A lot of what he did was business, but he was still serving people. So this is a way for all of his employees to honor him in a way outside of the business and carry forward that spirit of service.”