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Corporate aide on the rise in Toledo area

Volunteerism grows, monetary gifts lag, charity officials say


As the economy slowly recovers, more businesses and their employees are increasing charitable contributions and volunteerism.

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As unemployment, housing, and other facets of the economy slowly recover from their post-recession hangover, corporate charitable giving also is rebounding in fits and starts nearly three years after the last recession ended.

Directors of local charities say that volunteerism and the sharing of services and resources by local businesses is rising — a development for which they say they are extremely grateful.

However, monetary contributions remain flat or are still falling short of needs, local charities say.

“We’re seeing corporate enthusiasm coming through in corporate projects. Volunteering has 100 percent increased with companies coming in to help,” said Deb Vas, director of the Toledo Seagate Foodbank of Northwest Ohio.

Last Thursday and Friday, Hickory Farms Inc. sent nearly 200 volunteers to the food bank to sort and pack food. The work was greatly appreciated, Ms. Vas said.

But despite the help, corporate donations to purchase food for the food bank remain down while demand from area families for food remains high. “Last week our warehouse was almost empty of canned things to give away,” Ms. Vas said. “Some private anonymous people have come forth … and those numbers have come up. But food is food and nutrition is another thing altogether,” she added.

Jane Moore, interim chief executive officer of United Way of Greater Toledo, said that in her meetings with area corporate and union leaders, she senses more confidence that the economy is improving.

“Having said that, I don’t think they’re ready to forge fully ahead in terms of investment. They are feeling better, but not ready to make that investment yet,” she said.

“What we are seeing is, overall, there’s not new and expanded budgets for corporate giving. Companies are being more conservative,” Ms. Moore said.

However, if they cannot donate funds, corporations are more than willing to provide volunteers and services. “Money is very important, and programs take money to run. But a week of caring and education takes people too. Tutoring or cleaning up a stream, that doesn’t happen by accident,” Ms. Moore said.

Dan Rogers, president and CEO of Cherry Street Mission Ministries, said donations to the mission have been flat or down since the recession. In 2011 corporate donations totaled $320,180, and through the first nine months of 2012 they total $164,931 — a pace well behind 2011.

But manpower and donated services by corporations are way up, Mr. Rogers said. “If there’s a spike in one area across the board, it is in volunteering and gifts-in-kind,” he said.

But one area that dropped during the recession and has not returned is sponsorships, that is, corporate fund-raising on behalf of the Cherry Street Mission.

“Anecdotally, I think we’ve seen over the last couple of years a downdraft in corporation giving in terms of sponsorships. We’ve definitely seen a decline in that type of corporate giving the last eight quarters,” Mr. Rogers said.

The United Way’s Ms. Moore said that although corporate giving has not returned to prerecession levels there are encouraging signs.

“What we’re seeing in corporate giving is flat, but it’s moving in the right direction. People are feeling better, but I just don’t think we’re quite there yet,” she said.

At the food bank, Ms. Vas said with overall financial donations down, a few companies have increased their giving.

ProMedica has co-sponsored a “Come to the Table” community food drive with The Andersons Inc. to bring awareness to the food bank’s needs.

“The Andersons has certainly stepped up with their donations — food, donations, and volunteers. They’ve helped out right across the board,” Ms. Vas said.

Auto parts supplier Faurecia Inc. last month held a food drive at both of its Toledo plants with a goal of collecting 1,730 pounds of food. The auto parts company roared past that figure, with its employees having collected 2,380 pounds at last report.

Ms. Vas said the food bank also is working with a large vendor to set a way to obtain prepared food before it is thrown away. “It is modeled after Forgotten Harvest in Detroit,” she said, referring to an organization that rescues surplus, prepared, and perishable food.

“And our area farmers are really stepping up too,” Ms. Vas said. “They are donating what they can even though they saw a loss of fruit and apple supplies in this area this summer.”

Contact Jon Chavez at: or 419-724-6128.

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