Local Businesses that Give Back to Their Community

By Sarah Davin

Feed a Family Program through Hunger Mountain Co-op. Photo courtesy of Hunger Mountain Co-op

Giving and sharing are fundamentals that we learn as children, but how often do we remember and practice these as adults? According to Dr. Brett Steenbarger, professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at SUNY Upstate Medical University, in his December 2017 article for Forbes magazine, the action of giving is like a muscle that needs to be exercised or it will be lost. He writes, “In the spirit of ‘use it or lose it,’ we build the traits that we exercise and express. When we fail to actualize traits, these atrophy. Over time, that means we can become more or less giving, more or less loving, more or less engaged with the well-being of others.”

Thankfully, the spirit of giving is alive and well in the Central Vermont community—in the streets, shops, markets, and homes, but also the offices and boardrooms of some of the region’s largest businesses. The Bridge pays tribute to four local large companies that flex their giving muscles to the benefit and betterment of the community.

Hunger Mountain Co-op

The Co-op has long been committed to sustaining a vibrant and healthy community, with particular attention paid to the Montpelier Food Pantry.  “The impactful work the food pantry does with supplying emergency meals to individuals and families in our community supports that mission,” said Stephani Kononan, senior manager of community relations and marketing.  For each reusable bag that someone uses at Hunger Mountain, the Co-op donates a nickel to the food pantry. Since the program was launched in 2016, the Co-op has donated $25,294.60 to the food pantry and replaced 505,892 paper bags.

The Montpelier Food Pantry is only one of many nonprofits the Co-op supports. Each month, the revenue of its “Give Change” program goes to a selected area organization. If you would like the cashier to ask you about rounding up your purchase, you can sign up at hungermountain.coop/give-change.

National Life

National Life’s “LifeChanger of the Year” award honors teachers, principals, and school staff members who make a difference in their school communities. The company created the recognition program in 2011, with the goal of highlighting the good work that happens in schools around the country and reward the nominated educators and employees. The grand prize winner receives an award of $10,000, with $5,000 of it going to the individual and the other $5,000 to the winner’s district or school. Four other grand prize finalists receive $5,000 to be also be split 50/50 between the individual and the school.

Since the program’s beginning, National Life has awarded $500,000 to schools and school employees.

National Life has featured some of its nominees on the The Today Show, and profiles of every nominee are created and displayed on the LifeChanger of the Year website: lifechangeroftheyear.com. If you would like to nominate an educator in your life, do so by December 31.

Vermont Mutual

Vermont Mutual established its Giving Fund in 2014 to honor the contributions of three Vermont Mutual presidents: William H. Brooks, Thomas J. Tierney, and William A. Catto, and since then, the fund’s contribution has tripled. Vermont Mutual favors causes that promote education, help Vermont’s youths, and satisfy basic needs such as housing and food. Some recipients of the Vermont Mutual Giving Fund have been Camp Ta-Kum-Ta, The Boys & Girls Club of Burlington, The Vermont Foodbank, the YMCA of Burlington, and The Vermont Futures Project.

Vermont Mutual says it is especially proud of its involvement with Habitat for Humanity, not only financially, but with on-site projects where employees assisted with construction efforts. Thomas Thamm, Vermont Mutual’s communications specialist, elaborated, “Affordable housing remains an important subject throughout the state and we were very pleased in recent years to have been able to support [them].”

Vermont State Employees Credit Union (VSECU)

VSECU empowers Vermonters through multiple small programs, focusing on the basic needs of Vermonters—food, shelter, heat, financial literacy, and the environment. In winter, the dollars become all important to the recipients of the “Fuel Your Neighbors” campaign, which supplies emergency heating to those in need.

“This is Fuel Your Neighbors’ third year and we are very excited to see our fundraising goal go up,” said Rachel Feldman, public relations specialist. As of December 15, Fuel Your Neighbors had reached $25,405 of its $100,000 goal. When you donate to Fuel Your Neighbors, the donation will be doubled thanks to support from VSECU. To donate to Fuel Your Neighbors, go to fuelyourneighbors.org.

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