Each issue of Advantage features an “Impact Player” from the United Way of Northeast Florida, as a means to highlight the contributions that local volunteers make to our community.
More than 60 percent of employees participated in the company’s first campaign, which ended in August. The company matches employee donations at 50 percent.
How did you get involved in the United Way?
We had been looking for opportunities for our team members to participate in a charity as a group. Our company’s goal is to support charities that help children and feed the hungry. We call upon a lot of customers in the food industry, including Publix. They recommended we contact the United Way.
The United Way made a presentation to us and it matched up with what we wanted to accomplish, so we rolled out a campaign. We had meetings with different shifts and departments and 60 percent of our folks signed up in our first year. We hope to reach 70 percent this year.
A good number of people could share a story of how at one time in their life they had been helped or supported by an organization backed by the United Way, including numerous day cares. It’s a pretty easy story to get behind.
How have you since helped?
As an around-the-clock operation, our team works in shifts. Sometimes it has been hard for employees to get involved but we’ve been talking with department heads about helping with a reading program for preschoolers. We are also doing “The Angel Tree” project at the Johnson YMCA near our plant during Christmas time. We did it for the first time last year.
I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many people are willing to help others. Personally, it’s been refreshing. I attended all 20 of the campaign meetings last year, and expressed how important it was, and how easy it was to participate. I’ll be involved in the reading program this year as well.
Each year, I also have a one-to-one meeting with every employee. If they’re already involved in the United Way, I’m asking them to stay or to increase their support. If they’re not, I’m pitching them on why it’s helpful. That’s why I’m excited about increasing our percentage.
What programs are you most involved in?
We have a lot of single moms who work in the plant. Many of them have been helped with day care after school at the YMCA.
There are a lot of things out there that people don’t know the United Way can help them with, they just need to know how to ask. Our folks have been very open and willing to participate.
How does the United Way’s work make our community more attractive to businesses interested in starting here?
Companies that help children and feed the hungry are important to our company. If you are going to change the way things are, you start with the kids. You give them an opportunity to have a better life and to be a better citizen. The United Way sees that, and it’s one of the big pluses.
What advice would you give to other business leaders interested in engaging with the United Way?
You have to commit yourself if you want to have a successful campaign. If the leader of the company is convinced that it’s a worthy campaign and the employees see they’re involved then they’ll also be on board.
Many of our employees didn’t know what the United Way did. If they see what they do, they realize it’s good work. We’re looking forward to another good year.
About United Way
With a rich 90-year history, United Way has earned a reputation as a respected and efficient philanthropic organization. Its long tradition of addressing the human service needs in Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau, and Northern St. Johns counties is made possible through the commitment of thousands of volunteers, contributors and community partners. Get involved: https://www.unitedwaynefl.org/volunteer/