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Philanthropy program gives Wonderful workers a voice in donations

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Philanthropy would be so much easier if every year you could just choose a charity — or maybe two or three charities — and let someone else write the donation check.

As unlikely as it may seem, that's exactly how it works for Leticia Ramirez and her coworkers.

This year and last, the human resources generalist picked Kern County-based nonprofit Youth 2 Leaders Education Foundation to receive a $500 contribution. She likes the organization because it has paid for her nephew's Delano mariachi group to go and perform in New York City and Washington, D.C.

Both times the donation was paid for by Ramirez's Delano-based employer, Wonderful Citrus, which is part of The Wonderful Co., a 9,000-employee, privately held company headquartered in Los Angeles.

Last year, Wonderful donated $4.5 million to nonprofits selected by its employees. Since the program was started in 2006, the company has given out $37 million to 7,200 different nonprofits. That's separate from the half-billion dollars contributed over the years by owners Lynda and Stewart Resnick.

Wonderful Giving, as the initiative is known, is intended to leverage the company's workers to give back to the communities where Wonderful has employees, customers or business interests, program Director Vicky Rosen said.

"We really encourage our employees to think about their donations and give impactfully," she said.

The program allows workers to choose up to three nonprofits per year to receive a donation. Salaried employees like Ramirez are allowed contributions totaling $1,000; for hourly workers the annual total comes to $500.

The largest local recipient of donations under the program is Wasco Union High School, which during the past 12 years has received more than $210,000 thanks to Wonderful Giving. Lost Hills Elementary School, the program's second-leading recipient, has taken in $141,000.

Other local nonprofits that have benefited financially from the program include the Bakersfield Homeless Center ($77,852), the Bakersfield Ronald McDonald House ($70,633), Marley Mutts Dog Rescue ($63,586), Youth 2 Leaders ($62,400) and the Kern County chapter of the Wounded Heroes Fund ($34,310).

Rosen said nearly all the company's employees participate in Wonderful Giving. Those who take part get a sense of what it is to be a philanthropist, she said.

"They get this feeling of what it's like to think about where you want to give," she said.

Ramirez, who has directed her share of company philanthropy to different charities over the years, said her violin-playing nephew, as well as two nieces involved in the mariachi group, know of Wonderful's role and are grateful.

"They're very aware," she said, "that without this program … that they may not be able to participate in these types of (performance) events."
BY: John Cox
DATE: November 28, 2018

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