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Firms’ donations focus on education

Kayla Tran, left, and Beaux Killeen, ninth-graders at St. Martin High School, experiment with block combinations to form a perfect cube in the Project Lead The Way classroom at St. Martin High School in October 2013.

Kayla Tran, left, and Beaux Killeen, ninth-graders at St. Martin High School, experiment with block combinations to form a perfect cube in the Project Lead The Way classroom at St. Martin High School in October 2013.

Big businesses in Mississippi not only provide some of the best paying jobs in the state, they are known for generously supporting charitable programs of many different types throughout the state.

The big businesses often put a lion’s share of their charitable resources behind educational programs.

“Education has been our priority for more than a century, and raising graduation rates is the focus of our signature philanthropic initiative, AT&T Aspire,” said Kim Allen, a spokeswoman for AT&T. “Through this program, we donated $100,000 to the New Learning Resources School District to provide high school students in the Jackson area the tools and support they need to succeed in both school and future careers.  Specifically, this funding was used to support enhancements to the school’s existing dropout prevention program through the implementation of small, alternative learning environments for 100 at-risk students.”

AT&T Mississippi recently presented a $52,000 check to support the work of Teach For America-Mississippi. And Jobs for Mississippi Graduates recently received $30,000 in funding as part of a $1 million contribution from AT&T to allow the national non-profit to add new schools and/or expand existing programs with proven records of success in keeping kids in school.  This program helps underserved students overcome barriers to graduation through mentoring, tutoring, academic support and links to social services.

Allen said AT&T has a primary focus on organizations that have a demonstrated track record of proven results.  Overall, more than $5.3 million was contributed by AT&T and its employees through corporate, employee, and AT&T Foundation giving from 2009-2013 in Mississippi.

Another telecomm company with a history of charitable giving for education in Mississippi is Comcast.

“We recently awarded 14 scholarships worth $1,000 each to students across the state through our Leaders and Achievers program,” said Ronnie G. Colvin, Comcast senior director external affairs.

“Earlier this year, we hosted Comcast Cares Day, which drew over 600 volunteers who worked on projects benefitting local organizations. In Jackson, we supported the Salvation Army, donating time and materials in excess of $10,000 to make needed improvements in three of their locations. Finally, through the Comcast Foundation, we have awarded grants to other causes, including the Tupelo Boys and Girls Club, where we created a technology program in their facility.”

C Spire, a regional telecommunications firm based in Ridgeland, has donated more than $2 million to Mississippi’s eight public universities for scholarships and endowments through its C Spire Foundation.

It also has donated $500,000 to fund C Spire’s Gameplan educational initiative to prepare Mississippi High School students for college enrollment, administered in conjunction with the Mississippi Department of Education and the Mississippi High Schools Activities Association.

Chevron’s Pascagoula Refinery support for organizations and initiatives generally falls into three main categories: education, environment, health and community services, and economic development.

“In the area of education, Chevron is a long-time supporter of the Excel By 5 early childhood education initiative,” said Bruce Chinn, General Manager, Chevron Pascagoula Refinery.

“This program’s goal is to ensure children in participating communities are happy, healthy and ready to learn by the time they are five years old. Chevron has contributed more than $2 million since the program launched in 2004. Other major education initiatives include Project Lead The Way, a partnership that promotes Science, Technology, Engineering and Math curricula, as well as Fuel Your School, through which Chevron has worked with DonorsChoose.org to contribute more than $100,000 to 163 classroom projects across Jackson County since 2012.”

 In 2013, Chevron committed $1 million to the Audubon Society for the Pascagoula River Audubon Center and Mississippi Flyway programs. Chevron also recently pledged $1.65 million to The Nature Conservancy for their work in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.

“We are also active in other local initiatives, such as the Mississippi Wildlife Federation, Mississippi Land Trust, Jackson County Household Hazardous Materials Collection and the Coastal Clean-up program,” Chinn said. “Chevron supports numerous health and wellness initiatives in the area. The refinery is a long-time partner of United Way of Jackson and George Counties, and contributes through the annual capital campaign more than 30 percent of the organization’s yearly budget. Additionally, Chevron is a member of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Youth Health Coalition. The Coalition has launched the Childhood Obesity Initiative, which is a measurable, results-based program which offers health lifestyle education and guidance for children, parents and other caregivers.”

Chevron also invests in workforce development programs to improve the opportunities of local workers. Since 1999, the company as provided more than $225,000 in scholarships to 100 Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College students.

Spokeswoman Mara Hartmann said giving back to the communities served is an integral part of Entergy’s corporate mission.

“Entergy can only be as successful as the communities we serve,” Hartmann said. “We view giving back to the community as an investment, not only because it makes good business sense, but also because it’s the right thing to do. And because local problems are best solved through local solutions, Entergy relies on employees who are part of the community and knowledgeable about their area’s unique needs. These employees help direct funding decisions and implement local initiatives through volunteerism.”

Entergy’s support of low-income initiatives is rooted in the economic reality of the communities they serve, Hartmann said.

“Between 20 and 30 percent of Entergy’s 2.7 million residential customers live at or below the poverty line,” Hartmann said. “We believe we have both a moral obligation and a business imperative to find substantive, lasting solutions to help break the bonds of intergenerational poverty. To that end, in the past decade Entergy Corporation has invested more than $100 million in programs to fight poverty.”

Each year approximately 3,000 grants totaling more than $15 million are awarded to organizations in the states Entergy serves.

Another of the largest companies in the state, Walmart, donated $12 million in Mississippi in 2013, in addition to distributing more than five million pounds of food to local food banks.

“Walmart recognizes the fact that every person deserves healthy food and has always been dedicated to serving our local community by ensuring all residents have access to healthy food options,” said Captain Andrew Gilliam, Corps Officer of the Salvation Army Hattiesburg Corps. “These funds will provide those in need in Mississippi with nutritious food while they work to better their lives.”



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