published Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

For companies, storm aid is part of identifying with public

An array of companies are stepping up giving in the wake of last week’s violent storms to help the victims with gifts approaching $1 million so far.

“The thinking about this is that there are so many people affected over such a wide area,” said Claudia Moore, the Greater Chattanooga American Red Cross’ chief development officer. “The need for funds is going to continue.”

Jim Sabourin of Chattanooga-based insurer Unum Group said the $100,000 it’s giving to the United Way, Red Cross and Salvation Army isn’t part of its charitable budget.

“It’s above and beyond what we normally do,” he said. “It may not be budgeted, but we’ll find the money to contribute. We felt it was the right thing to do.”

He added that the company also is matching employee gifts.

The BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Health Foundation donated $100,000 to the Red Cross to bolster rescue and recovery efforts, according to the Chattanooga health insurer.

BlueCross Chief Executive Vicky Gregg told employees that while they never wish for such times, “hard times always reveal the true character of our community and organization.”

A newer corporate citizen, Volkswagen, provided a $100,000 tornado assistance fund administered by the Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga.

Frank Fischer, CEO of VW’s Chattanooga operations, said “our thoughts are with our neighbors in the region, particularly those who have lost loved ones.”

Other major companies in the area have made major commitments.

Retailer Belk Inc. announced a $200,000 commitment to the American Red Cross. The contribution includes a $100,000 grant to support efforts in Alabama, $50,000 for North Carolina and $50,000 to help with immediate and long-term recovery efforts throughout the company’s locations.

Another major retailer here, Kohl’s, too made a $200,000 cash donation to the American Red Cross to help people across the South.

Even such as a diverse entity at the Atlanta Braves is stepping up by donating $100,000 to the Salvation Army.

But, companies aren’t just giving money.

TVA has donated and delivered 10,600 ready-to-eat meals to local disaster agencies in North Alabama.

“Beyond our immense transmission line restoration efforts, this is a small way TVA can contribute to the relief efforts being undertaken by numerous agencies and organizations,” said TVA Chief Operating Officer Bill McCollum.

Bi-Lo Charities is donating and distributing pallets of water and food to the hardest-hit areas, according to the company.

In addition, it has launched an effort so customers can donate at checkout when shopping at any of its Chattanooga or North Georgia grocery stores. Funds raised will be delivered to the Chattanooga and Cleveland, Tenn., area chapters of the Red Cross, the company said.

“The devastation to so many in the North Georgia and Chattanooga area is heartbreaking,” said Bi-Lo CEO Michael Byars.

Moore said other companies with operations in the area have indicated a desire to help as well.

She said she recently met with Mountain View Motor Group, for example, which is giving $20,000.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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