United Way, chamber honor four companies for service

The United Way of Douglas County and Lawrence Chamber of Commerce Friday recognized four companies that are giving back to their communities.

The award is designed to promote community responsibility as a core corporate value. Winners are judged on financial, as well as in-kind, non-cash, donations and efforts to promote volunteerism among employees.

The 2003 Spirit of Caring recipients and their class sizes:

¢ Minuteman Press (fewer than 10 employees)

Dee Bisel has owned Minuteman Press in Lawrence for 11 years. She said her five full-time and two part-time employees primarily dedicate their time to Junior Achievement, the United Way of Douglas County and volunteer work through various churches.

For nine years, the shop has given away a monthly printing job to a nonprofit agency or a school. The press covers half of the cost up to $500 for one selected group each month. Nonprofit agencies and schools always receive a 10 percent discount off the regular price.

Bisel said helping the community made her feel good and helps her business.

“Being a local owner, I see people at church, at the grocery store, wherever I go,” she said. “If I just reaped benefits from having a business here, I wouldn’t feel that connection. Local business owners have a responsibility to be involved in the community.”

¢ Peoples Bank (50 or fewer employees)

In the past few years, Peoples Bank has changed the way it approaches volunteering.

“We’d done small donations here and there, but hadn’t made a big impact,” said Todd Harris, community president for Lawrence. “We decided to begin looking for ways to make a big donation and a big difference.”

The bank’s two big undertakings last year were the intramural sports program at the two Lawrence high schools and Festival of Trees. The sports program had been cut because of tight school budgets, so for the past two years the bank has sponsored the program. It donated $4,500 to both high schools in 2003 for intramural sports.

The bank has also taken The Shelter Inc. under its wing. Last year, bank employees staffed the organization’s main fund-raiser, the Festival of Trees. They also handled all mail registrations for the event and helped keep the event’s finances in order. At the event, the bank purchased two trees and a Jayhawk on Parade for a net donation of $3,800. It also provides The Shelter Inc. with legal assistance.

The bank encourages employees to volunteer by providing eight hours of paid time for volunteering each year and employees participate in more than 30 different nonprofit organizations and schools. Every day bank employees bake cookies, which are placed out with a jar for donations. The money raised is given to area charities.

¢ Douglas County Bank (51 to 150 employees)

Douglas County Bank president Ted Haggart said helping Douglas County has been a goal of the bank since it opened 52 years ago.

“First and foremost we a have a long-standing commitment to community service,” he said. “That’s part of being a hometown bank.”

Gifts to nonprofit organizations totaled nearly $94,000 in 2003, in addition to the more than $113,000 donated by bank employees. Haggart said the bank also helped employees volunteer through deeds such as supporting United Way drives and providing T-shirts for company groups that participate in activities such as the March of Dimes WalkAmerica.

Employees are encouraged to take time away from the bank during business hours to help with an organization. Bank employees volunteered more than 7,000 hours in 2003 and serve on the boards of numerous organizations, including Douglas County Development Board, Leadership Lawrence and Cottonwood Inc.

¢ Wal-Mart (more than 150 employees)

Lawrence Wal-Mart gave more than $73,000 in cash donations in 2003. All of that money went to organizations operating in Douglas County.

“We don’t do national sponsoring,” said Ruth Becker, good works and green coordinator for the store. “We wanted to reward communities where we live. Individual stores know better what the needs of their communities are.”

The corporate Wal-Mart Foundation gives money to individual stores to use as they see fit. Some of the biggest recipients of funds from the Lawrence store last year were the Douglas County sheriff and fire departments, Douglas County CASA, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Douglas County, Toys for Tots, and Lawrence High School when Anne Shaw won teacher of the year.

In addition to cash donations, Wal-Mart operates a community recycling shelter that staffs eight employees from Community Living Opportunities. Last year, it recycled 6 million pounds of material. The company also donates about two carts a week of unsold clothing to Penn House and two to three carts of unsold pet supplies to the Lawrence Humane Society.

Employees are encouraged to volunteer through the Volunteerism Always Pays program. Employees who donate at least 25 hours of work in a six-month period can earn $250 from Wal-Mart for their organization. The company gave out 17 of those grants last year.