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Not every organization can lose a dozen employees for a day to volunteer projects. Some companies are barely able to pay their bills and hesitate to donate.

But businesses that want to help their community and their employees’ hometowns still find a way to make a difference. SBN Magazine investigated the philanthropic philosophy of area businesses and found that no two companies are exactly alike.

Ernie Novak, managing partner Cleveland, Ernst & Young LLP

Philanthropy is sort of like the chicken and the egg comparison. The challenge is volunteers can serve meals, but someone has to pay for the food.

One common thread connects volunteerism and financial support — the human spirit of giving back to help those in need around us. People have followed their hearts, which has led them to get involved and to donate. I wouldn’t want to see people choose between these two activities because they are so closely intertwined.

Financial support is important, and our employees give to literally hundreds of charitable organizations throughout Northeast Ohio. But in addition, our people are encouraged to volunteer their most precious asset — their time. Money talks … but volunteers walk the talk through their personal commitment of time.

We believe so strongly in that, that beginning their first week of employment, new staff participates in what we call Community Service Night. Recently, 61 new hires volunteered at the Eliza Jennings Home and the Ronald McDonald House. We even created a database to keep track of who’s doing what in volunteer commitments.

With a work force of more than 900 people in Northeast Ohio, we believe we can make a big difference. We all gain when we help the community where we live.

Mary Karr, director of community relations, NCR

We do not separate the various sides of giving. At NCR, we have three prongs to our community relations — senior management placement on boards, philanthropic investments and employee volunteerism.

Globally, we have 32,900 employees, so we keep track of the number of hours our employees volunteer and the programs they are in to give us a feel for the range of activities we as a corporation are involved in. It could be as simple as volunteering at their child’s school or being a scout leader. Last year, our employees volunteered 58,591 hours of their time. That’s up from 1999 when it totaled 55,892 hours.

As far as financial giving, we target communities that have 1,000 or more NCR employees and do a needs assessment. Then we come up with a program to help civilly, in the arts and culture, with health and human services as well as education.

But almost everything we do is done through volunteerism, including the United Way campaign and the United Arts campaign. We support the Dayton Culture Works, a united arts fund that is the single largest funder for arts in the area.

NCR runs two campaigns per year, one for the arts and one for health and humans services. We say that one is for the heart and one is for the soul.

Doug Weintraub, president, Centerprise Information Solutions

Most of the people at our six locations donate time and sit on the boards of nonprofit organizations. Whatever community employees live in, they volunteer in. Given this current economic situation, we typically volunteer time and get personally active in nonprofits.

Because we’re a consulting firm with expertise in accounting and computers, we understand that’s our expertise, our niche. We can help many of the associations out there by being on the boards or volunteering.

Steve Millard, executive director, COSE

COSE was built on the tradition of volunteering leadership. Today, we have over 460 active volunteers in our community, on boards and working on events. We may not have a single person who’s been here as long as COSE has been in existence, 30 years, but we have a ton of volunteers who have.

We have small business owners who simply volunteer to field questions from other business owners. They give advice and help in the area of their expertise. Our members spend their time helping each other, and for people just starting out, being a recipient of that volunteerism is very important

Jim Kandrac, president, United Computer Group Inc.

I prefer volunteerism, giving of yourself through your time and your help. But time is not always easy to find. As a company, we tend to lean toward financial support because we are more readily able to do so.

Pero Novak, president, Air Technical

We lean toward financial contributions like to the United Way. This year, we also made a big effort to help with the World Trade Center Fund. We also collected items needed by the Red Cross like soap, hats and blankets. We had a tremendous reception and participation for the victims.

Our employees want to help; they want to do something for their community. Although it’s inconvenient as a manufacturing operation to stop running and to call everyone together to decide what we will support, we do it. And our employees are generous as long as they believe in the cause.

Craig Kurz, CEO, Honey Baked Ham Co.

We take the approach of giving financial gifts and product gifts. We’ve had multiple shipments of food for the relief and rescue efforts in Washington, D.C., because we have a store there. Also, we set up a program to give a percentage of our sales from all of our retail stores to the Red Cross. In 19 days, we raised $53,000.

But outside the realm of the September tragedy, all of our stores are encouraged to choose local charities and causes. And again, we give food to soup kitchens and churches and food baskets to the needy around the holidays.

We have 21 stores in Ohio. We tell our store managers to tap into those people closest to your stores, meet the needs of your community, and we’ll support you at the corporate level. We like to say we think national, but we act local. What I mean is, we are very much connected with our local trade areas and the very different needs of each community.

Corporately, we always support ALS, arterial lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It’s our designated national charity because my grandfather, who founded Honey Baked Ham Co., passed away in 1974 from ALS. We primarily support them with financial gifts from the company as well as from individual employees.

What we want people to do is feel passion and believe in the causes they support, and those are the causes closest to their stores. How to reach: Honey Baked Ham Co., (800) 394-4424; Air Technical Industries, (440) 951-5191; COSE, www.cose.org; Centerprise Information Solutions, www.wecansolve.com; Ernst & Young, www.ey.com; United Computer Group, www.ucgrp.com; NCR Corp., www3.ncr.com

Deborah Garofalo ([email protected]) is associate editor of SBN Magazine.