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The Lasting Legacy of Notable Leaders

Greg Tasker 

Business success stories are inspiring, but so too is a company’s dedication to its surrounding community. That commitment to philanthropy is even more impressive when the next-generation of leaders take the helmor branch out in other pursuitsto continue the legacy. 

The sons of three founders of Michigan corporate giants — Art Van, Amway Corp., and Bartech Group — will share their parallel contributions to the community at the 2019 Mackinac Policy Conference 

Sharing their insights, David Barfield, group development officer at Impellam Group; Daniel G. DeVos, chairman and CEO of DP Fox Ventures LLC; and David Van Elslander, board member of the A.A. Van Elslander Foundation spoke to The Detroiter about their families’ commitment to corporate citizenship.

David W. Barfield – Group Development Officer, Impellam Group

Daniel G. Devos – Chairman and CEO, DP Fox Ventures LLC

David Van Elslander – Board Member, A.A. Van Elslander Foundation






Q: Is there a particular mantra or philosophy in your family that underscores charitable efforts? 

DB: My father and mother were entrepreneurs who founded, owned, and operated numerous businesses over their careers. Though the products and services of their companies differed, the founding principles of each remained constant. These principles are quality of service, fairness to employees, and community service and corporate citizenship. 

DD: Dad and mom were guided by their Christian faith to give. In fact, from their first days as a young married couple, they dedicated a portion of their annual earnings to others, long before Amway grew to become a business success. As their earning power grew with Amway’s growth, so did their giving. 

DVE: My father often said if you are lucky enough to be successful, you have a responsibility to give back…Dad was always grateful for the incredible community support he received through the years, and returning that support was the most natural thing in the world for him. 

Can you mention any examples of your company combining business and philanthropy? 

DB: To this day, Bartech regularly partners with our clients to support causes they feel strongly about that also align with our values. On a quarterly basis, our employees conduct organized fundraisers for various charitable organizations with matching funds from our leadership.  

DD: It is hard to pickthey all are important. Seeing the launch of the Grand Rapids Griffins Youth Foundation and the impact that it has had over the years is truly rewarding. Equally as fulfilling are the efforts at Fox Motors, as we identify local needs and create programs to support great organizations like Kids Food Basket, Toys for Tots, and many more. We also place great value on the arts, and we have been blessed to be a part of several organizations supporting major initiativesnationally and here in Michigan. 

DVE: It was difficult to separate Art Van the man from Art Van the businessmany people never knew there was actually a person behind the namebut there was, of course, and the philanthropy came from his heart. For his company’s 50th anniversary in 2009, Dad donated $1 million to Michigan charities by establishing a grass roots challenge grant program which resulted in over $5 million being raised; that platform has since been successfully adopted by other organizations. During a tough economic time, when companies were cutting philanthropic dollars, my father recognized the need for continued corporate responsibility and acted in a meaningful and lasting way. I’m really proud of that. 

Q: Why is it important to continue to reinvest in Michigan? 

DB: We have always believed in the importance of supporting those communities where we do business. Though Bartech now operates throughout the world, our first customers, the majority of our employees, and the heart of Bartech remain in Michigan. 

DD: Michigan is our home. It will always hold a tremendous place in our hearts and it is a great place to live, raise a family, and grow a business. The entrepreneurial attitude of individuals in Michigan is hard to miss. 

DVE: My father was born, raised, and lived his entire life in Michigan; although he traveled the world, he said there was no better place to raise a family than Michigan, with its Midwest values, work ethic, educational systems, and incredible natural resources.  

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Greg Tasker is a metro Detroit freelance writer.