When disasters like Hurricane Florence hit the Carolinas, it’s first responders who initially rush in to help. But first responders can only stay for so long. After the dust settles and the flood waters recede, it’s often nonprofit groups helping families get back on their feet, which they do with the support of Triangle corporations and their employees.
Triangle businesses big and small regularly step in to support charitable causes and nonprofit organizations in our area. Some donate food. Others write checks or provide free trucking from warehouses to areas in need. Others organize employee volunteer work days, hold clothing and food drives, or provide pro bono legal advice or tech support.
This company-driven giving helps make up an important part of most charity initiatives in and around the Carolinas.
According to Jeanne Tedrow, President and CEO of the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits, most of the companies in the Triangle help serve the community in one way or another.
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“If you talk to any of the big companies in RTP, you will find they are engaged with their employees to generate donor drives or awareness or volunteerism,” Tedrow said. “It’s widespread, and we are so fortunate that we have such very high giving and strong sense of corporate responsibility with the corporations in the area.”
After Hurricane Florence hit North Carolina in September, 22 of the 34 counties served by the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina were declared federal disaster sites. The organization distributed 3.3 million pounds of food to affected areas following the hurricane, but two months after the storm, the need for food and cleaning supplies remains high.
“It’s a hard time for people who were already in need or having to make difficult decisions on how to spend their money,” said Jenna Temple, manager of corporate partnerships for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina. “Then you add a disaster, and that changes their lives. We’re seeing a lot of need, but also a lot of support.”
Temple said corporate support of their relief efforts was immediate. The Food Bank received company donations as small as $500 and as large as $100,000. Grocery stores donated food and cleaning supplies.
Employees from local businesses fill the Food Bank’s Raleigh and Durham warehouses daily, volunteering to sort, check, and pack food and goods.
“It’s never been just a few donors we count on,” Temple said. “It’s a lot of donors that want to be a part of this. Between Raleigh and Durham, the corporate donors are so engaged. If we didn’t have them, we wouldn’t get it done.”
Corporations give back for a variety of reasons, said Amber Smith, executive director of Activate Good, a Raleigh nonprofit that connects volunteers with needs. Smith pointed to national research showing businesses who practice corporate citizenship having higher employee morale, better public perception, and higher rates of retention than those that don’t. Plus, the employees love it.
“They keep coming back, so I’d think that’s the best indicator that they’ve had a positive experience,” she said.
When spokespeople for these companies were asked why they support local nonprofits and charities, their universal response was: Why wouldn’t they?
“North Carolina is our home,” said Jonathan Toms, associate manager of charitable initiatives for Smithfield Foods, a meat processing company headquartered in Virginia that employs around 10,000 people in North Carolina. “Our employees aren’t stepping up for recognition, but because it’s their neighbors and it’s the right thing to do.”
It’s a sentiment that carries over to a variety of causes, not just disaster relief. From cancer research to veteran support, Triangle companies are involved in charitable giving throughout the year.
Credit Suisse, a Zurich-based bank with a large presence in Wake County, holds a yearly bike race to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
As an inaugural member of the Triangle Corporate Volunteer Council, Red Hat works closely with Activate Good on a variety of community projects, including participating in the nonprofit’s annual Volunteer Day and helping clean a women’s shelter.
Duke Energy employees volunteered over 12,000 hours for nonprofits in 2017.
Butterball, headquartered in Garner, donates turkeys to hunger relief efforts year-round, including Operation BBQ Relief, which helped serve 568,000 meals last year with Butterball’s help.
Food Lion donated cash and food to disaster relief after Hurricane Florence, and holds an annual event called the Great Pantry Makeover, where the company donates money for new supplies for a food cupboard like refrigerators or paint, then provides the man power to fix up and stock the pantry.
“I think for us at Food Lion, we care about the towns and cities we serve because we are the towns and communities we serve,” said Matt Harakal, manager of media and community relations for the grocery chain. “Our kids go to school with the children of customers. They play sports with them. There’s a genuine care for the community because it’s our community too.”
Still, nonprofits say any companies looking to start volunteering have plenty of opportunities to choose from.
“It really runs the gamut,” said Smith of Activate Good. “From veteran’s issues, to animals, to education, to building homes with Habitat for Humanity, to fighting hunger — no matter what your interest is, there’s some cause in our area that you can help, and that corporate support is really, really important. They have the resources and the professional skills that are incredibly helpful to the causes in our area.”
Service needs are always high around the holidays, but organizers encourage those who want to help to consider volunteering or donating their services year-round.
To start, contact any of the following organizations for their needs and volunteer opportunities:
▪ Activate Good, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
▪ Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, contact email@example.com
▪ NC Center for Nonprofits, check https://www.ncnonprofits.org/ for current needs and opportunities.
▪ The American Red Cross Greater Carolinas Region, https://www.redcross.org/local/north-carolina/greater-carolinas.html#