After Harvey Disaster, Corporations Step Up to Give

Following Hurricane Harvey's brutal assault on Houston, other Texas communities, and the Gulf region, a flood of generosity is now picking up energy across the country, including from corporate America.

Among the many givers, Unilever, the owner of Ben & Jerry’', is sending $25,000 to support the distribution of emergency relief supplies such as food, water and medicine.

Unilever and the Ben & Jerry's Foundation are also matching employees' financial donations to the Greater Houston Community Foundation’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund and to the Dallas Foundation's Hurricane Harvey Disaster Relief Fund. The matching funds will multiply the impact of those dollars.

"I feel really good to work for a company that will support my efforts to help," said Laura Peterson of Ben & Jerry's, describing her employer matching her personal donation.

Insurance giant National Life announced it is donating $50,000 to be split between the disaster relief organization Americares, which focuses on health needs, and the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund set up by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner.

National Life also said employees from its Dallas office have been volunteering with relief efforts in hard-hit communities. Additionally, employees at the company's campuses in Texas and Vermont have organized supply drives to help evacuees.

"Our corporate values to 'Do good, be good, and make good' are more than just words," Mehran Assadi, National Life's CEO said in a written statement. "When we see an opportunity to help our neighbors, we do. The heart-wrenching scenes we've all seen in Houston are a call to action to do even more good."

Smaller companies, such as Vermont Gas, have also joined the efforts.

The natural gas utility wrote a check for $3,000 to the American Red Cross and encouraged others to support the Red Cross' humanitarian relief efforts.

"This is really what Vermonters do — they see someone in need and they step up to the plate to help out," said Vermont Gas spokeswoman Beth Parent.

David Jones, an expert in corporate sustainability practices at the University of Vermont's Grossman School of Business, told necn that companies' giving rose nationally in 2016 over the year before.

Jones cited a Giving USA report which showed 2016 giving by corporations totaled $18.55-billion, a 3.5 percent increase over 2015.

"Employees and managers and the corporate leaders are people like you and me, and a portion of them really care about their communities and giving back," Jones observed.

The professor said workplace support for employees' own volunteer efforts has also been growing in recent years, with many firms recognizing that doing good is also good business.

"If it helps them attract talented employees and retain them and make them more committed, that creates value for the company and that allows them to keep investing in these practices that help," Jones said. "So in this way, the company wins, the employee wins, and the community wins."

NBCUniversal, the parent company of necn, has also made a $1 million donation, in cash and services, to hurricane relief in Texas. The funds will be shared between the American Red Cross and Mayor Turner's Hurricane Relief Fund.

Additionally, necn has been raising awareness of ways to help people impacted by Harvey, including by holding an all-day relief drive Wednesday.

For more information on how you can help, click here or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

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