Improve Your CSR Initiative with Community Action service opportunities

This article was published in the Winter 2022, Hall of Fame Issue
by Amy Osmond Cook, Ph.D.

Did you know that 88 percent of employees believe companies need to positively impact society? Or that 77 percent of consumers are motivated to buy products and services from companies that help make the world a better place?

There’s more: A recent study found a link between high corporate social responsibility (CSR) and innovation. "High CSR performance increases not only the innovation output level but also innovation efficiency."

With so many tech companies making Utah their home, there’s a lot of competition to attract the best employees and customers. That’s where CSR comes in—it might be what sets you apart from the competition. So Community Action Services and Food Bank (CASFB), with its mission to end poverty in our community, is the perfect place to start or continue your CSR initiatives.

Food Bank and Pantries

What It Is

Community Action has pantries in Provo, Springville, Heber, and Coalville, providing food assistance to residents of Utah, Wasatch, and Summit counties. In 2020, the agency collected 3,320,323 pounds of food—including 1.36 million pounds rescued from grocery stores. It then distributed 3,224,827 pounds to people in need.

How Your Company Can Help

Businesses can help the local food pantries in several ways:

  • Host a food drive. You can make collections a contest between departments or employees to make it fun for everyone while putting food on the table for people in need in the community. The agency will drop off bins for collections and pick them up when the drive ends.
  • Make a monetary donation. Earmark a tax-deductible donation for the food bank. Because of the agency’s relationships with local grocery stores, it can turn $1 into four meals.
  • Volunteer. Organize employees into volunteer groups during a workday. Community Action uses volunteers to help organize shelves and more in the food bank and pantries. Groups can be small or large.

Circles Initiative

What It Is

The Circles Initiative is a program that helps low-income families and individuals stabilize, build self-reliance, learn skills, and make the connections they need to pull themselves out of poverty. Circles connects participants whose income falls below 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines with volunteers who help them set goals and develop a strategy to get out of poverty.

Participants graduate from the program when their income grows to at least 200 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. The program takes at least 18 months to complete, but sometimes more. Of the participants in 2020:

  • 39 percent increased their income.
  • 71 percent increased their assets.
  • 39 percent decreased their debt.
  • 39 percent decreased their need for assistance.
  • 54 percent are not on public assistance.

How Your Company Can Help

Circles has one-time and long-term volunteer and giving opportunities.

  • Donate a meal. Circles groups meet weekly to talk about goals and have dinner. Each week, a business or organization donates the food.
  • Volunteer for childcare. During the weekly meetings, volunteers provide childcare for the participants so they can focus on the work of pulling themselves out of poverty. You can organize employees to watch the kids.
  • Become an ally, or encourage employees to become allies. In the program, allies are mentors who work one-on-one with participants. They talk through goals and help participants make connections that lead to better lives. Who better to become an ally than a person with a successful tech career? You could become an ally yourself or incentivize employees to volunteer.

Emergency Assistance

What It Is

Community Action provides rent and utility assistance, bus tokens, transportation assistance, and vouchers for furniture, clothing, and hotels. In 2020, CASFB housed 122 individuals with emergency housing vouchers. It also kept people from being evicted by helping make 938 housing payments, in addition to the transportation help and more.

How Your Company Can Help

This is where monetary donations help the most. You can make a tax-deductible donation and then earmark it for emergency assistance. The agency also takes donations for specialty kits. Companies can gather supplies and put kits together before donating or donate the supplies separately. Community Action has specialty kits for birthdays, back-to-school, hygiene, and more.

Education

What It Is

The agency provides one-on-one financial counseling that focuses on budgeting skills, debt management, understanding and building credit scores, and saving. Its homebuyer education and mortgage courses empower families to obtain long-term homeownership and to strengthen homeownership. The first-time homebuyers program helps people along the path of buying their first home. In 2020:

  • 163 households completed the CASFB’s Homebuyer Education (HBE) Class.
  • 118 people completed the homebuyer prepurchase counseling program.
  • 46 households purchased a home after attending the HBE Class.
  • 84 households received one-on-one prepurchase counseling.
  • Counselors helped 241 households create a sustainable budget.
  • An average of five people visited the Financial Learning Center every day, looking for information, resources, and/or financial counseling.

Community Gardens

What It Is

Community Action rents plots to community members in four gardens in Provo every summer. For a small fee people tend the garden and grow their own produce. In 2020, 43 households rented space in the community gardens to grow their own food.

How You Can Help

The agency needs volunteers to keep the gardens clean and free of weeds during the summer. Volunteers also get the gardens ready for planting in the spring and put them to bed for the winter in the fall. You could organize employees to spend the workday getting their hands in the dirt and doing good in their community.

Kids Backpack Program

What It Is

Every week, Community Action provides food to low-income children in elementary schools in Utah, Wasatch, and Summit counties to take home for the weekend. In those three counties, the child hunger rate is between 11.3 and 12.7 percent. That means there are thousands of children around you going without food every day. In 2020, the agency distributed 28,362 of those packs of food.

How You Can Help

Donate. Whether it’s donations of products for the program or a monetary donation, everything counts. You could organize a company-wide themed food drive for the Kids Nutrition Pak program (find the specific needs here) and get employees involved in ending childhood hunger in the community. Or, when you make a monetary donation, let workers know about the good you’re doing in the community.

Having a CSR program that does good in the community sets you apart from the competition when it comes to attracting employees and customers. With food pantries, education, Circles, gardens, and more, Community Action Services and Food Bank is a one-stop shop for any CSR initiative. For more information, contact Community Action at (801) 373-8200, casfb@communityaction.org, or visit communityactionprovo.org to get started.

Dr. Amy Osmond Cook is the Chief Marketing Officer at Simplus, and the Founder of Stage Marketing.


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