MONROE — With COVID-19, Brexit, murder hornets and the Presidential Election, 2020 was a year of challenge for many, but it was also a year of giving.
Women created Facebook groups to bring joy to strangers’ doorsteps, thousands came together to protest inequalities on all sides of the political spectrum and community members took it upon themselves to help others during a difficult time for all.
Journalists from the LA Times, Newsday and Today all wrote about some of 2020’s generous moments, but one doesn’t need to look beyond Monroe to find examples of large-scale acts of giving.
As Colony Brands in Monroe faced challenge in the form of a fourth quarter seasonal staffing shortage, employees came together to turn the situation around, transforming it instead to something positive.
The company gave employees the opportunity to work the seasonal warehouse shifts, but the impact was far more than just getting the work done.
Employees were able to take advantage of the Colony Brands Associate Donation program, which allows them a dollar amount to be designated to a local non-profit per year of service. This year, the extra warehouse shifts served as a second opportunity to give through the program.
The additional hours resulted in nearly $300,000 in donations to 39 charitable organizations, 22 of which are Monroe-area.
“We felt that as an organization, we have a tremendous opportunity to give back,” Colony Brands Foundation President John Baumann said. “What we’re able to do here in terms of being a little bit more generous this year is to be able to bolster some of those organizations so that they can not only get through 2020, but hopefully get through 2021 in good financial shape so that they can serve their missions as organizations.”
Family Promise of Green County was just one of the charities to find a check in the mail from the Colony Brands Foundation.
“We’re very fortunate to the generosity of not only Colony, but many others around the community and individuals as well,” Family Promise Network Director Rick Gleason said. “[They] really made it possible to look to 2021 and know that we’re going to be okay.”
For many of the organizations, community donors and volunteers act as a lifeline. That proved especially true in 2020 when many fundraisers and events had to be changed to ensure safety or canceled entirely. At Family Promise, about 40% of the annual income comes from annual fundraisers. Fundraisers that, in 2020, had to be unexpectedly canceled.
“It’s been a year of being very flexible and being willing and able to make sudden changes,” Gleason said. “But we’ve been very fortunate to have some generous donors and volunteers, supporters and things that have been there throughout it all and been our rock keeping us going. We’re grateful for that.”
From food pantries to schools, doors all across the nation unexpectedly shut and organizations and businesses had to learn to adapt. Much like Family Promise of Green County, Monroe Theatre Guild was no exception.
As at all entertainment venues, MTG had to abruptly cancel its season in March and go dark. A loss of ticket sales hit the theater hard, but community support from Colony Brands and beyond has helped keep the guild preforming.
“We’ve had a lot of support from the community this year, financially and emotionally,” MTG Facility’s Manager Denise Plantenberg said. “It meant everything.”
Baumann recognizes that the donations did not come without effort from Colony employees, but said that the culture of giving back is something in which the enterprise is rooted.
“There’s a lot of stress in just living right now,” he said. “We’re very, very cognizant that we’re asking a lot of our employees.”
Baumann started the Associate Donation Program 10 years ago and it continues to serve as a window into the culture of giving back within the company.
Colony Brands President and CEO Bob Erb said that the foundation’s recent donations show first-hand the values of both the company and its employees.
“It’s an important part of our culture and our value, to serve the community in that way,” Erb said. “I’m just really proud to work for an organization that has values that are real.”