In February, New Jersey Business highlighted some of the philanthropic efforts of New Jersey-based companies during the COVID-19 pandemic. From food insecurity to housing needs and income support, corporate New Jersey is stepping up at a time when assistance is needed most.
As the state inches towards 1 million total COVID-19 cases with nearly 25,000 deaths, the lasting impact of the pandemic, from both a public health and economic perspective, is going to be felt for a while.
However, the spirit of giving back is widespread across the state’s 21 counties.
One example is Phillips 66 Bayway Refinery, located in Linden, which granted $50,000 to Trinitas Regional Medical Center in Elizabeth – part of a larger $3-million donation by Phillips 66 to support responders on the front lines of the country’s COVID-19 relief efforts.
“The global spread of the COVID-19 pandemic has had an indelible impact on every aspect of our lives, and finding ways to assist those in need is more important than ever,” says Phillips 66 Chairman and CEO Greg Garland, adding that all donations were made to front-line organizations that are responding to the pandemic efforts, including first responders, food banks, healthcare providers, and other organizations serving the most vulnerable populations.
This type of corporate generosity is so widespread that New Jersey Business decided to take another look at how a few more companies in the state are helping their communities and those most in need.
Ed Walters Jr., founder and president of Barnegat-based property management company Walters Homes, says that the spirit of service is embedded in his company’s corporate culture.
“Our employees pick the causes they’d like to support and are encouraged to organize the events in the workplace,” Walters Jr. says. “In some cases, their family members also participate. Walters believes it’s a great way to build camaraderie while giving back to the community. Consequently, our property managers encourage residents living in our communities to also participate in charitable causes that they’d like to support.”
Over the years, Walters has provided its residents with year-round resources such as after-school programs, special interest clubs, career assistance, food pantry programs, and social services assistance. It has also given back to local charities including the FoodBank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties, Toys for Tots, The Girl Scouts of the Jersey Shore, Barnegat Volunteer Fire Company, American Red Cross, hurricane relief, Habitat for Humanity, and annual college scholarships for local high school students.
“During the COVID-19 pandemic, we saw an increase in requests for assistance from our residents,” Walters Jr. says. “To meet this demand, our property management team distributed gift cards to local restaurants, as well as delivered food baskets during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. … And, since many of our senior residents need assistance using computers, [we] helped them stay connected with family and friends throughout the pandemic, as well as register for the COVID-19 vaccine.”
At the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020, Keasbey-based Wakefern Food Corporation announced a $1-million donation to various food banks across the nine-state trading area of its banner supermarkets. Additionally, one of those supermarkets, ShopRite, raised $500,000 through its Essential Thanks campaign that recognized healthcare workers, first responders, and supermarket associates across the country. It also raised $850,000 through its annual Check Out Hunger initiative and an additional $1.1 million as part of its ShopRite Partners in Caring Cheerios competition.
“Wakefern and its cooperative members have always been committed to fighting hunger and supporting the communities where our stores operate,” says Rob Zuehlke, ShopRite’s manager of Corporate Social Responsibility. “This commitment was especially critical during the pandemic, as our food bank partners were experiencing increased need and demand.”
ShopRite Partners in Caring (SRPIC) was established in 1999 and acts as a natural extension of this philanthropic philosophy. This community-based, hunger-fighting initiative between ShopRite and its vendor partners has raised more than $51 million for local food pantries and agencies. Zuehlke says that each year, SRPIC distributes roughly $3.1 million to 2,500 food pantries across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic.
“SRPIC is uniquely positioned to assist during times of crisis,” he adds. “The program stepped up efforts during the pandemic and worked closely with our food bank partners to provide critical funds. The pandemic reinforced how important our work is to the communities we serve and for people and families who may rely on food pantries and other charities for necessities. It is only natural that we are all committed to tackling hunger; it’s an extension of what we do in our business. That’s why SRPIC is our signature hunger-fighting initiative.”
New Jersey healthcare giant Johnson & Johnson (J&J), based in New Brunswick, attained worldwide acclaim when its COVID-19 vaccine was granted an emergency use authorization by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. While the impact of the vaccine will be tremendous, the company, which has a long history of philanthropy, is also giving back in other ways.
For example, J&J committed $50 million to front-line healthcare workers fighting COVID-19 around the world, and established the J&J COVID-19 Medical Personnel Leave Policy, which provided up to 14 weeks paid leave to medically trained employees so they could donate their time and expertise by joining the ranks of those on the front lines combating the pandemic.
The company’s efforts to give back extend beyond the pandemic as well, and in January 2020, J&J committed $250 million over 10 years to help inspire, recruit, train, retain and mobilize front-line health workers through the Johnson & Johnson Center for Health Worker Innovation. In addition, the company dedicated another $100 million to address the health inequities that disproportionately affect communities of color through Our Race to Health Equity program.
“Our employees are at the core of what J&J is able to achieve each day,” says Lauren Moore, vice president, Global Community Impact at J&J. “It is because of their unwavering commitment, which we saw in action tenfold over the last year, that we were able develop a COVID-19 vaccine in record time, support front-line health workers around the world, and ensure our own employees were able to give back through our Talent for Good and COVID-19 Medical Personnel Leave Policy.”
Moore adds that J&J also matched all global employee and retiree donations to The COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund or CDC Foundation’s ALL OF US Campaign dollar to dollar, up to $1 million to each.
“Additionally, dozens of J&J employees have created COVID-19 fundraising campaigns on our CaringCrowd.org crowdfunding platform to address diverse unmet needs on the front lines around the world,” Moore says.
While it is still uncertain as to when we can officially say the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us, one thing is for certain; New Jersey companies will continue to give back, empowering communities and helping those most in need.
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