October 26, 2014

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What It Means to Be Green: Can CSR Programs Expand Their Reach?

Sometimes donations can stretch a little further – look no farther than the rural areas surrounding a metropolis.

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By Richard McDonough, President and CEO of America Responds With Love, Inc.

“Going Green” has been a buzz phrase in business for years, and many corporate social responsibility leaders have strived to go green.

For America Responds With Love, a national non-profit, this is not a new concept.

For 25 years, we’ve used products and services to aid people and communities in need that are often overlooked by others, throughout the United States.

We believe the potential to ‘go green’ is even greater than many have seen thus far.

Sowing the Seeds

Take, for example, (literal) seeds. In the past eight years, we’ve planted more than nine million flowers in Respond With Love gardens in 11 states.

We’ve used a variety of agricultural and horticultural products that would otherwise be thrown away or turned into mulch: flower bulbsARWL tulips in Mississippi that bloom in spring and summer. Wildflower seeds native to communities. Perennial plants that sprout back year after year. Vegetable seeds that grow into plants and can provide nutrition.

Our gardens have been planted to beautify communities devastated by hurricanes, tornadoes and other natural disasters. And, not just in the communities that you know by name – Joplin, Moore, Tuscaloosa. But also in the communities you’d find only if you were specifically looking for the overlooked – Ider, Alabama; Diamondhead, Mississippi; Duquesne, Missouri; Little Axe, Oklahoma.

Beyond the communities that have been hit by disaster, America Responds With Love also helps beautify communities in need for reasons. Sometimes these are communities have been overlooked for generations. The areas others pass by are ones that may have needs as great—or sometimes, greater—than those actually devastated by disaster.

For instance, you’ve probably never heard of Ellisville, Mississippi; Butler, Alabama; Maud, Oklahoma; or Spring City, Pennsylvania. But we have.

In Mississippi, sections of Interstate 10 were transformed from fields of grass into wildflower gardens, reducing the need to mow the median strips on a regular basis and allowing heavy equipment to be used for more productive uses by the government.

In New Jersey, seeds were used in a high school to teach mathematics. In Pennsylvania, individuals with developmental disabilities planted flower bulbsDahlias in bloom in a Respond With Love Garden in Joplin, Missouri, in the Fall of 2013. in plastic milk jugs and then gave the plants as they bloomed to senior citizens in need. Children in domestic violence shelters grew flower seeds in small cups to learn about responsibility and care. In another region in Mississippi, flowers were planted along vegetable gardens to entice bees to come pollinate the vegetable plants. Lands scarred by erosion have been planted with flower bulbs to enhance soil conservation. Streambeds have been strengthened by planting flower bulbs along the edges to maintain stability of the soil.

Strengthening Community

All this from flowers and seeds that would have otherwise been thrown away.

But there is so much more that we could accomplish with the support of corporate social responsibility programs.

America Responds With Love is able to remove 30 to 70 percent of the costs for a CSR project by using in-kind products and services. For businesses facing tight budgets, we have the capacity to allow you to meet your targets at lower costs.

Businesses looking to engage their employees have found ‘going green’ through America Responds With Love increases employee satisfaction. In Boyertown, Pennsylvania, local real estate agents spent time tilling the ground and planting flower bulbs to enhance the aesthetics of a local landmark. In Oklahoma City, employees of an oil and gas services company sorted and packed flower bulbs for planting at more than 45 sites in central Oklahoma. They also helped plant some of the bulbs at a local fire company and in frontGladiolus in bloom in the Summer of 2013 in a Respond With Love garden at Bob Locke Park in Butler, Alabama. of a building used for disaster relief services in a rural community. Employees who engaged in these activities reported positive experiences and a sense of purpose toward community building.

Growing to Do More

We have the potential to plant more than one million additional flower bulbs this summer. And we can plant these flowers anywhere in the 48 contiguous states. We have the ability to locate the communities overlooked by so many others. Do you know a community in need?

Let's talk at 1-321-AMERICA (1-321-263-7422) or drop a note at richard@respondwithlove.org.

The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by CSRwire contributors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of CSRwire.

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