By: Tanya Martinez, Senior Manager of Solar Development
A silver lining in the COVID-19 crisis is seeing how so many companies are ramping up their efforts to give back. Employees are searching for ways to help—literally. The Washington Post reported that Google searches for “how can I help” spiked in late March and early April, surpassing the number of inquiries after Hurricane Harvey flooded Houston.
Companies are supporting their employees’ eagerness to help. Bright Funds, the workplace charitable giving platform, announced that workplace donations on its platform more than doubled, increasing 129% compared to March of the previous year. Corporations are also starting employee giving programs.
sPower has always focused on giving back to the communities in which it develops projects. Being good, active community members is a core value. As a company, sPower has committed $500,000 to COVID-19 relief, creating a COVID-19 Response Fund to support emerging needs in local communities where we are developing and operating.
sPower is special because of our mission-driven employees. In addition to sPower’s corporate commitment, we initiated an employee-led giving program. Each one of our offices partnered with local organizations and non-profits to give back and meet the unique needs of the local community.
As a first-hand participant, I can attest that employee giving programs are a wonderful way to draw teams together—even while physically separated—and assist communities that need it most.
I am based in Southern California and manage the development of renewable energy projects here in the Golden State. We are developing a 200-MW solar plus storage project in Adelanto, approximately 60 miles northeast of Los Angeles. It is a remote city in the high desert, perfect for solar but with limited job opportunities. Nearly half the city commutes at least 40 miles one way to work every day, some as far as Riverside. Nearly 38.5% of the city lives in poverty, so naturally the local government welcomes our project with open arms and the estimated 500 construction jobs it will bring.
Whenever sPower develops a project, we take a “hyperlocal” outreach approach, getting to know the region, leadership and key organizations; this is crucial to the success of our projects. We strive to establish positive long-term relationships and pride ourselves on being good neighbors. As part of the recent COVID-19 efforts, sPower donated $10,000 to the First Assembly of God, a church in Adelanto that partnered with “CityServe”, a nonprofit that provides care packages and meals to the residents that need it the most. Working in the city for over a year now on the project, our company’s charity inspired me to also give as an individual.
It was Adelanto’s Mayor Gabriel Reyes who recommended the local church’s CityServe initiative for sPower to support. He knew the church was making a tremendous impact on his community members and that they needed more support. In honor of sPower’s donation, the church offered not only essential items in the care package, but they also received a generous ham for Easter.
I showed up for my three-hour shift on a Thursday morning. The church’s leader, “Pastor JJ,” was excited to host a special Easter meal. I was impressed by the organization of the event and the kindness of the volunteers; everyone there expressed such gratitude for sPower’s donation. There was a schedule for pick-up times the recipients had to adhere to in order to avoid large crowds, although they accommodated people not on the schedule as supplies allowed.
All the volunteers were well protected with masks and gloves and practiced social distancing as we loaded up individual cars that drove up on schedule to pick up their care package. The care packages included a medium sized box of essential items like toilet paper, diapers, toothpaste, and hand sanitizer along with a plastic bag full of non-perishable foods such as green beans, corn and finally, the Easter ham.
I worked alongside the Mayor as he checked people off the list; what an incredible example of community service from their local leader. I was inspired by his humble leadership and was honored to be a part of the community. Pastor JJ was also a person of great impression and dedicated to serving the needs of the local community. He had moved from Hawaii to the high desert in order to serve, something his family had to adjust to. That is one of the many aspects that I enjoy about being a developer – having the opportunity to engage with and becoming a part of the community.
Our projects will be in communities for at least 20 years, if not more, so it is crucial to establish long-lasting positive relationships where we do business. Through the employee giving program, other sPower employees have donated to the Adelanto church’s CityServe initiative, thus strengthening connections between employees and the communities where we work.
The employee giving program has brought colleagues together in a unique way to be able to give together during these challenging times for so many that are unemployed. We are all very lucky to be working, and it makes me proud to work for a generous company and with philanthropic individuals. Employee giving is one way to impact corporate culture in a positive way.