Smith Gives Back: How It All Started

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By Nora Gibbs, Account Executive

“Smith gives back” – it’s not just something we say, it’s something we do.

When Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, I was on a cruise. In the Gulf of Mexico. I was headed out to sea when Katrina was headed to shore. Houston dodged a bullet that week, but our neighbors in Louisiana weren’t so lucky. My husband and I met a couple from New Orleans, and we watched the news with them as we learned of the destruction to their city. It was gut-wrenching to be so close to a place that was devastated but knowing there was nothing that we could do to ease their pain.

Or maybe there was.

Most good plans start with the same thought: “What if?” What if we ran a relief effort out of Smith and asked for clothes, diapers, and anything that might be needed for those fleeing Louisiana?

It started with our operations department allowing us to use Smith’s warehouse as a loading dock for donations. Then our small relief effort was magnified when our New York office heard about it. An employee there is a former volunteer for his local fire department, and, within two days, we had helped coordinate with a fire department in Long Island to send a tractor truck filled with clothes and supplies to the warehouse.

Even one of our owners reached out the minute he heard about it and asked how he could contribute.

We asked for help sorting and shipping at our headquarters and ended up with 30 employees across all departments who spent nine hours helping wherever it was needed.

While that story is one extreme example of a long-ago relief effort, for me, it was the beginning of knowing the impact we could have when we all banded together.

Many years later, our director of HR, Patti Everitt, and I were discussing Smith and philanthropy. She and I both participated in the charitable events that we had planned over the years, but there was no coordinated effort to organize and get others involved. It was then that she decided to lead the charge in forming Smith’s Corporate Social Responsibility Committee.

We asked our employees to suggest organizations that are near to their hearts and incorporated those groups into our yearly Calendar of Caring. We’ve raised money and donated time for anything from homeless shelters to schools for children with special needs. We’ve walked in honor of our breast cancer survivors, and we’ve fostered dogs with K9 Angels, a local charity that I personally love.

We have also begun our global initiative to help people around the world.

One of the things I’ve noticed over the past few years is that new employees will ask us about our volunteer opportunities. Through expanding our philanthropic efforts, Smith has been able to answer – with pride – that we’ve had a CSR department long before there was a name for it. It used to just be called “that volunteer thing that Patti or Nora is helping to run this weekend.”

We’re excited to look back on how our efforts have grown over the years, and we look forward to continually taking that extra step to make a difference in our communities and the lives of our global neighbors.

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