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Extending a helping hand: a corporate responsibility.

Preparing and mailing 5,000 thank you cards would be overwhelming to some organizations, but to the Salt Lake Chapter of the American Red Cross, it's a chore of love. The thank you notes express heartfelt gratitude for the Utah companies and individuals who gave more than $3 million in support of Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

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"Hundreds of Utah companies, from smallest to largest, helped people displaced by Hurricane Katrina," says Mariann Geyer, CEO of the Greater Salt Lake Chapter of the American Red Cross. "Utah companies held fundraisers and matched employee contributions. It's an example of the generosity of Utahns." Geyer reports that recent natural disasters in the South seem to be motivating Utah companies to inquire even more frequently as to how they can rally their employees to help.

Natural disasters from the tsunami in Asia to the recent spate of domestic hurricanes prompted employees of Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah and their Regence counterparts in three neighboring states to donate $172,500 to help victims.

"We have a culture of giving that has been fostered since our founding in 1942," observes Kevin Bischoff, Regence BlueCross BlueShield of Utah vice president of public and corporate affairs. Bischoff believes the flagship of Regence's corporate giving is the launch in 1992 of the Caring Foundation for Children. Through the foundation, Regence has helped 17,000 uninsured Utah children by providing them with dental care. Regence supplies approximately $350,000 a year to cover administrative expenses to run the charitable foundation. Donations are also offered by Regence of Utah's 800 employees, who have the opportunity to contribute to either the Foundation or United Way during an annual Regence giving campaign. Last year, employees gave $57,000 to the two charities.

"The Caring Foundation is a great example of what a responsible insurance company can do," says Bischoff. "We are providing uninsured children with an important health care option." Explaining why companies should run a corporate philanthropy program, Bischoff asserts, "It benefits employee morale."

United Way of Utah spokeswoman, Marti Money, reports that 15 percent of all Utah companies with 50 or more employees donated last year through United Way. "Utahns are typically generous. There are many local needs and United Way is an excellent way to give back to the community," said Money.

Rick Beard, Bank of American Fork president and CEO, says the bank's board and employees believe in corporate giving. "Community banks are stewards of the community. We have an obligation to see that the community does well. If the community does not do well, banks will not do well either. Corporations should give, simply because we are human. The community is our responsibility."

In the past year, Bank of American Fork, a regional bank with 10 branches in Salt Lake and Utah counties, has given $100,000 to more than 100 not-for-profit organizations. Corporate giving is a longtime tradition tracing back to 1913, the year the bank was founded. The bank's 260 employees are involved with the charitable work that last year involved delivering 200 new fleece blankets to the Road Home's overflow homeless shelter in Murray. The bank involved customers by matching $10,000 to help the large, adopted family of Greg and Holly Richardson, whose home was destroyed by fire last May. Through employee fundraising, customer donation matching and the bank's charitable donation program, the bank presented the destitute family with a check for $35,000.

From hurricanes to tsunamis to local social and health needs, opportunities for charitable giving will always be with us. It's reassuring to know that Utah corporations have embraced their philanthropic responsibilities.
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Title Annotation:disaster relief contribution from Utah businesses
Publication:Utah Business
Geographic Code:1U8UT
Date:Dec 1, 2005
Words:603
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