Warm Hearts, Deep Pockets

The sincerest form of flattery

by Virginia Lindauer Simmon

healing-winds-vermont-event1215For the Bring Change event in August, TD Bank in Burlington invited people to participate in a community coin-counting event and fundraiser, which generated $2,643.53 to Healing Winds Vermont, a program that gives cancer patients the chance to relax while sailing on Lake Champlain.

We’ve all heard the adage “There’s no new idea under the sun.” There are, though, often brilliant interpretations of ideas that are worth a tumble when it comes to ways for business owners to give back to the community that supports them.

These can be as complicated as creating a full-fledged, week-long event like Burlington’s Jazz Festival or as simple as committing a percentage of every sale to a charity. That’s what Small Dog Electronics did when it donated $15 from the sale of each external hard drive during last December’s Safe for the Holidays campaign, amassing $1,000 for Prevent Child Abuse Vermont. Small Dog also netted $10,000 for Women Helping Battered Women in Burlington by committing a percentage of each qualified purchase during Domestic Violence Awareness month.

lund-bike-ride1215The seventh annual Lund Ride for Children presented in May by NorthCountry Federal Credit Union raised $81,700 for the organization’s education, treatment, adoption, and family support programs.

In a similar vein, Farrell Distributing and the Vermont Lake Monsters teamed up for a Here’s to the Heroes campaign based on a national campaign benefiting the families of fallen soldiers. Farrell pledged $10 to the Folds of Honor Scholarship Program for every run scored by the Lake Monsters at home. Then the Lake Monsters hosted a Stars and Stripes jersey auction with proceeds benefiting the same program. Maybe your favorite sports team would appreciate the chance to work with you on a benefit.

In recent years, as Vermont’s reputation as a foodie enclave has grown, creative opportunities for giving have exploded. Consider the myriad ways for you to contribute to Vermont Restaurant Week, sponsored last spring by Vermont Federal Credit Union and Seven Days, with the help of a slew of other sponsors and restaurants. From the simple act of dining out at a participating restaurant to taking part in one of the events to a pull-out-the-stops contribution — all benefit the Vermont Foodbank’s efforts to feed hungry families.

cvmc-turkey-pic1215Last year, the University of Vermont Health Network-Central Vermont Medical Center employees and volunteers donated 228 turkeys to families in need through the Vermont Food Bank. CVMC administrative staff, pictured from left: Terry Redmond; Brenda Dufresne-Benda, RN; and Rusty Reader.

You’ve gotta love any effort that involves food. COTS (the Committee on Temporary Shelter), for example, hosts The Coolest Lunch, an annual event on the Church Street Marketplace to raise awareness about the hungry and homeless by having diners eat lunch in the cold. $25 gets you an entrée and non-alcoholic beverage. Georgia Elementary & Middle School hosted a satellite Coolest Lunch. Maybe your office picnic table might like to host one.

For every new customer who enrolls in the Foley for Food Program, Foley Distributing donates 1 percent of all sales to the Foodbank. You might, though, find it easier to spend 10 bucks and go to the annual Pig Roast benefiting the Wonderfeet Kids’ Museum in Rutland. You’ll eat naturally raised meat from Brown Boar Farm prepared by Roots the Restaurant and enjoy live music and a list of children’s activities.

vfn-restaurant-event1215Of 20 participating restaurants, Leunig’s Bistro raised the most money in 2014 and the Windjammer Restaurant and Upper Deck Pub in 2015 for the Dine-to-Donate fund-raiser to benefit children with special needs. Present at the closing were Bob Conlon, Leunig’s; Pam McCarthy, president/CEO of Vermont Family Network; and Jeff Bushey, Windjammer Restaurant.

Are you a gardener? Consider planting a row for your local food shelf. Or simply place a box in the office where employees can share canned goods headed to the food shelf. Or here’s a thought: How about setting aside a percentage of what you pay for every oil change, tune-up, and auto repair fee to give to Meals on Wheels?

COTS is clever when it comes to opportunities for participating in fund-raising events. Check out its website and you’ll see many more events, including the COTS Walk, the phonathon, and the Candlelight Vigil. In February, it hosted Comic Relief, a night of comedy at ArtsRiot. Dee PT collected over 42,000 diapers for the organization’s homeless families. And with the United Way of Chittenden County, Lenny’s Shoe & Apparel has an annual coat drive for COTS beneficiaries.

rutland-chamber-devils-fest1215Rutland Region Chamber of Commerce is host to the Devil’s Bowl Speedway Fan Festival, where cars and drivers from the track’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series line Center Street.

There’s power in numbers. Consider partnering with other businesses or your association to offer scholarships to students majoring in your profession. Sterling College has a program to give $10,000 grants to help veterans who complete its degree in sustainable agriculture or sustainable food systems to launch farms.

Sterling also created the Pies for People project, a collaborative effort in which volunteers combine surplus squash purée with donated ingredients from High Mowing Organic Seeds, Pete’s Greens, Black Dirt Farm, and King Arthur Flour into healthful and tasty seasonal pies. You could launch your own, similar project using surplus food from gleaned garden spaces or surplus foods from various sources.

Don’t forget how easy it is to give of your expertise (or to give your employees time off to offer their expertise). NPI upgraded the electronics in the YWCA office in Essex Junction. And NPI’s president, John Burton, joined Nick Hinge, a technology consultant, to help prepare 28 desktop computers for donation to Barre School. Technology For Tomorrow (T4T) donated over 1,000 hours of volunteer service for free technology trainings when it united local students and senior citizens, bridging generation gaps and creating more vibrant, inclusive communities.

vt-music-fest-in-waitsfield1215August saw nearly 4,000 spectators at the sixth annual Vermont Music Fest.

One more idea for the filmmaker in all of us: The Humane Society of Chittenden County sponsors the aCATemy Awards, the Planet Cat Film Festival, in April. Vermonters submit original cat videos for viewing (and voting by the public) on the large screen at Majestic Theatre. If you aren’t the producer type, just buy a ticket and watch.

So go on. Emulate! Imitate! Impersonate! •