A Sound Foundation
February 14, 2014
Education is the gate way to a better life, a key that can unlock doors for young children and lift them to heights otherwise out of reach — of this, Mary Cage is fully aware.
That’s why the 42-year-old mother of Derrick Cage, 7, and Charmecia Cage, 10, both students at Thirkell Elementary School in Detroit, Mich., decided to enrich her children’s summer/breaks with regular trips to the Francis Parkman Branch of the Detroit Public Library, where they participated in the library’s reading program. Any parent can relate to the difficulties presented in dragging children to a library — where they must be quiet! — on a hot summer day. But recently, it’s become a great deal easier for Mary to convince Derrick and Charmecia to break away from the playground and crack open books.
The Cage children now eagerly anticipate summer sojourns to the library, where they can munch on yummy, nutritious lunches, in between book reading and computer work, thanks to a joint partnership between The FCA Foundation, the Detroit Public Library (DPL) and Forgotten Harvest, an organization formed to fight hunger and waste. The program served up 11,000 lunches to Detroit area children over the summer, driving attendance to the library’s reading program up 23 percent and providing many food-challenged children their only meal of the day.
“I love the program; it’s great for the kids,” raves Mary Cage. “They look forward to having some food while reading books, and also getting the chance to interact with other kids. They learn alot better with food in their tummy; I hope the program continues.”
Mary can rest easy — the program will carry on during the 2013-2014 school year in the form of an after-school reading program, with more than 2,000 snacks provided each week to help alleviate hunger and enable children to learn better at more than 20 DPL branches. The program to help feed young minds is just one example of a decades-long legacy of helping individuals and communities established by The FCA Foundation.
A Helping Hand for 60 Years
Born in 1953, The FCA Foundation is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2013, as well as marking an astounding evolution in the organization’s giving. Since an initial gift of $5,000 in 1953, The FCA Foundation has granted more than half a billion dollars (yep, that’s “B,” as in billion) to worthwhile organizations and causes over the 60 years of its existence.
As the primary conduit for FCA US LLC to give back to the community, and with funding solely provided by contributions from the company, it’s imperative that each grant provided by The FCA Foundation function as an effective use of the organization’s resources. Through the years, to help maximize its outreach, The FCA Foundation has sharpened its focus, zeroing in on four key areas of support: Education, Military, Multicultural/Diversity and Youth Development.
“Unfortunately, we can’t meet every need, so we’ve picked a concentrated, focused group of areas that represent our values as a company and represent areas where we think we can have an impact and actually make a difference in our communities,” explains Jody Trapasso, Senior Vice President – External Affairs, FCA US. “We like to be smart with our dollars and make sure they will address a need and will actually make a significant difference.”
The FCA Foundation is also proactive — the organization is constantly on the lookout for groups and causes that line up with its mission statement. “I think the beauty of having a focus is that we are able to identify those community organizations that represent our values and embody the type of change we want to drive in our communities,” adds Trapasso.
In the case of the FCA Foundation’s partnership with Forgotten Harvest and the Detroit Public Library, the organization actively worked to cultivate and establish a program that supported one of its designated focus areas, Youth Development.
“We had recently met with Susan Goodell, President and CEO of Forgotten Harvest, to receive an update about the group’s operations, and shortly thereafter Patrice Merritt, Executive Director of the Detroit Public Library Friends Foundation, asked me to come down to the main branch to share the good things the library was working on,” recalls Brian Glowiak, Vice President, The FCA Foundation. “During the course of the conversation I asked about the library’s biggest challenge, and Patrice mentioned lack of food and snacks for the children. We formed a partnership right after that.
“The program has been wonderful, and we are filling a critical need. It’s grown quite dramatically, and that’s a great thing. The children aren’t just coming for lunch, they are staying, they are reading, they’re expanding their reading skills, and they are staying alert.”
“We are really grateful to FCA US for this gift,” added Goodell. “This is the second year of our funding to provide snacks to children at the Detroit Public Library. Last year, with The FCA Foundation’s help, we were able to distribute 1,750 snacks a week to 18 library locations. This year, we increased that to 2,000 snacks per week at 22 library locations. This summer we also provided 11,000 lunches at five DPL locations over a 10-week period.
“We have received great feedback from the library. The food is absolutely critical. We’ve heard that because of the food, even more kids are attending the literacy and reading programs. The idea that they are getting a double benefit, not just the food but the education, is great.”
Regina Smith, head librarian at the Francis Parkman DPL branch, deals directly with children assisted by the program, and is profuse in her praise of its important benefits.
“We had anywhere from 80 to 100 kids eat snacks each month,” says a thankful Smith. “We received all kinds of comments from the kids, ranging from, ‘Thank you, this is delicious,’ to ‘This is the only meal I get and I appreciate it.’ The word of mouth has been passed on throughout the community about the lunches and snacks. It’s a wonderful, wonderful partnership, and words can’t even express how much we appreciate the help of The FCA Foundation and Forgotten Harvest.”
Brands That Give Back
Another goal of The FCA Foundation is to closely align with the brands of FCA US, and work in unison to support causes that match with the individual values of each respective brand.
“The FCA US LLC brands all have their unique identities and unique values, so when we come across a project that seems to reflect a value of a particular brand, we try to bring the brand into the program,” says Trapasso. “We encourage the brands to support the efforts of The FCA Foundation where organically there is an overlap of values and some of the objectives The FCA Foundation is trying to accomplish.”
The FCA Foundation played a major role in helping the Mopar® brand offer assistance and support for Southeastern Michigan Indians Inc. (SEMII), an organization which provides social services to Native Americans, located just two blocks from the Mopar brand’s main parts distribution facility in Center Line, Mich. Last year, volunteers from the Mopar brand pitched in to help renovate the organization’s cultural center, and in 2013 hundreds of baby supplies were donated by FCA US employees and delivered by Mopar volunteers to SEMII. The FCA Foundation also stepped up, contributing a $7,500 grant to assist SEMII with the purchase of additional items for infants.
“We have partnered with the Ram brand, providing critical disaster relief support for victims of the tornadoes that struck Oklahoma earlier this year,” continues Glowiak. “Ram, with company support, also fielded a huge effort to help in the recovery from Super Storm Sandy in 2012, partnering with the Red Cross to donate 20 Ram trucks as well as $100,000 to aid Red Cross efforts. The Jeep® brand has partnered with the USO and is a major sponsor of the USO Gala, the organization’s biggest fund-raising event of the year.”
With wild weather seemingly on the rise in recent years, as evidenced in the assistance from FCA US in the response to the Oklahoma tornadoes and Super Storm Sandy, The FCA Foundation has become more involved in pitching in to support natural disaster relief efforts.
“Unfortunately, we are unable to assist with every disaster worldwide, but we do provide support as our resources allow,” says Glowiak. “If you looked over the last dozen years, we have provided support for wild fires in San Diego, floods in Cedar Rapids, hurricanes in Florida, tornadoes in Houston, as well as for Hurricane Katrina. The FCA Foundation fielded a massive volunteer effort for Katrina, both with employees helping and huge donations of vehicles and supplies to assist all three states that were severely impacted.”
Borders are not barriers to the humanitarian efforts of the organization. “We have participated in international relief efforts as well,” points out Trapasso. “We like to help whenever we can, particularly when there is a disaster on a large scale.”
Following its philosophy of actively seeking out ways to help others, The FCA Foundation also utilizes the eyes and ears of FCA US employees to provide leads on potential organizations or causes. “We are pretty active in looking around us for needs where we feel we can make a difference,” says Trapasso.
“We have budgets that we allocate to our plants, our business centers, our parts distribution centers and our proving grounds across the country, and we receive feedback from our employees on the ground there to reference charities that fall within our pillars that we can consider helping,” adds Glowiak.
Grant support is only one tool The FCA Foundation utilizes to provide assistance to charitable causes and organizations. Just as important — if not more so — is the army of FCA US volunteers who stand ready to donate their time and energy to augment and reinforce the work of The FCA Foundation.
“We try to combine support from The FCA Foundation with volunteer support,” stresses Trapasso. “In order to have the most impact, wherever possible we like to put volunteer hours behind our grants. It’s another level of commitment, and more that we can accomplish for community organizations. A check is great — everyone needs a check — but we have an unbelievable amount of talent at FCA US, and an unbelievable amount of enthusiasm and willingness to get involved in our community. So we try to partner our volunteers with a cause whenever possible.”
The FCA Foundation’s partnership with Forgotten Harvest and DPL to feed hungry children doesn’t end with a check. FCA US employees volunteer and invest their precious time and talents to assist the program from the ground up — literally.
“We have many, many FCA US volunteers in all aspects of our hunger relief program,” attests Forgotten Harvest CEO Goodell. “In our facility they make the lunches for the kids and also help repackage the various foods that we receive in large containers, breaking them down into smaller portions for distribution. They also volunteer on our 100-acre farm; over the summer we had 150 FCA US volunteers out to help harvest 160,000 pounds of summer squash, zucchini and fresh corn.”
On a hot, humid summer day last July, close to 100 FCA US volunteers labored on Detroit’s beautiful Belle Isle park, helping to clean up one of the gems of the Motor City under another program supported by The FCA Foundation. Joe Per, General Manager and head of the FCA US engine division, left the office behind and went to work to help clean up brush and “help the forest breathe” around one of Belle Isle’s pathways. After a rewarding day of giving back, Per was pumped up and ready for more.
“Everyone was positive, and there was a lot of excitement,” recalls Per. “People worked very hard — we almost had to slow down because it was a very hot day. Everyone was engaged, and the Belle Isle folks were pleased with how much we accomplished in a short period of time. I felt great at the end of the day, and said to myself, ‘I need to do this more often.’
“We’re blessed to work for a great company that allows us to take part in volunteering and that helps us participate in our community where we work and live. I think the commitment level of The FCA Foundation is outstanding. The organization recognizes the importance of volunteering in making a positive and lasting impact on the community. The FCA Foundation has offered support, and will continue to offer support.”
Yes, it has — for 60 years and counting.
By Darren Jacobs – Mopar Nation, Fall 2013
For more information about The FCA Foundation, see the Community Support Overview on www.fcanorthamerica.com.