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Leading by example How some N.J. companies do good while they are doing well Part 1

Not everything is about revenue and profit. The best companies have known the value of giving back to the community for generations. And they are finding today, with this new generation of millennial employees, that giving back is more important than ever for both the communities they serve and the culture of their workplace. The following are…

Affinity Federal Credit Union

Affinity Federal Credit Union walks the walk.

Lauretta Farrell, executive director of the foundation behind New Jersey’s largest credit union, said the same message it takes into business is the one it takes to philanthropy — “to improve the financial lives of people in the communities we serve.”

And it’s an undertaking that starts early.

One regular program organized through Affinity’s financial education initiative, which accompanies the firm’s efforts to address economic self-reliance issues, brings a group of students to a car dealership and walks them through the specifics of purchasing a vehicle.

“With the boys, particularly, they’re always interested in the big muscle cars that not only cost a lot of money but cost a lot to maintain,” she said. “We do a hands-on workshop for them that shows them what the insurance on that Corvette would be, their gas mileage, the cost of maintenance. … We have found students readjust expectations after it.”

Connell Foley

Phil McGovern, managing partner at Connell Foley, was born and raised in Jersey City — a place that also has contributed in large part to his law firm’s growth.

“It’s a city that has been very good to me and very good to our firm over the years,” McGovern said. “So, I have a strong sense that we need to return in kind to the community.”

There’s where the firm’s involvement with Rebuilding Together Jersey City comes in.

The nonprofit’s goal of revitalizing homes in lower-income areas of Jersey City has been something Connell Foley’s staff has volunteered hundreds of hours of their time to over the past 15 years.

It has led to recent participation in other initiatives, in local homeless shelters and other facilities.

The firm just this year teamed up to help out Mary’s Place, a former convent in Jersey City that was recently converted into a boarding home for struggling women and children.

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey

Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey, through the Horizon Foundation for New Jersey, orchestrates philanthropic activities that couldn’t be more close to home.

The health care institution focuses on addressing obesity as well as asthma among adolescents in just about every part of New Jersey.

Healthy U, a program to raise awareness about physical activity and healthy eating, reaches more than 60,000 children at over 500 sites in New Jersey. In concert with the New Jersey YMCA State Alliance, the program is run in all of the Garden State’s counties.

“When I leave (those) events, one thing I’m always struck with is the realization that the same thing just happened at so many other sites throughout the state during the same day,” said Jonathan Pearson, the executive director at the foundation.

Another endeavor, one that focuses on asthma, targets just the counties where it’s most prevalent — but its scale is similarly significant.

Jersey Central Power & Light

For Jersey Central Power & Light’s employees, caring is a competition.

Not only have JCP&L employees raised $161,000 for Harvest for Hunger over the past decade — they’re outdoing themselves all the time. This year, the company’s employees raised the most money ever for the hunger relief organization.

“Our employees embrace and very enthusiastically support these endeavors,” JCP&L President James Fakult said. “Harvest for Hunger brings out the competitive best in JCP&L employees as they come up with new fund raising events for it each year.”

The local energy company has gotten involved in supporting several far-reaching charities. Over the past five years, JCP&L employees along with the company’s philanthropic collaborator, the FirstEnergy Foundation, have contributed $881,000 to United Way.

“(As an organization), we believe in bringing good energy to our communities and that the greater good is better business,” Fakult said.

KPMG

Even accountants prefer to wear jeans into the office.

And, at KPMG, they actually do it — for a good reason.

“For $5, you can wear blue jeans to work at the end of the week,” Corey Temple, a KPMG office managing partner, said. “The money goes to rotating charities employees (are involved with). It’s things as big as American Red Cross to smaller charities, local Boy Scout troops or specific disaster relief funds.

“Candidly, everyone likes to wear jeans on Fridays, so it’s a win-win.”

It’s only a small part of what KPMG aims to do in the area of philanthropy across its national footprint.

Temple highlighted a New Jersey KPMG effort to buy books, visit classrooms and read to children in a program designed to combat illiteracy among children in need. Through the annual program, more than 40,000 books were donated to more than 25 New Jersey schools.

Read Part 2

To read Part 2 and learn how even more companies are “Leading by example,” click here.

Brett Johnson

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