Community giving: Doing a world of good

By Alan Miles

Dennis Knock knows how to lend a hand to communities — whether it’s providing much-needed processing equipment for a farmer co-op in South Africa or rescue equipment for a volunteer fire department in a town just down the road from Frontier Co-op’s headquarters in rural Iowa.

Frontier Co-op in Bulgaria

Dennis (left) visiting our lavender supplier in Bulgaria. This field is located near the villages where Frontier Co-op is building soccer fields and establishing other outreach programs for underprivileged youth.

As a commodity manager for Frontier Co-op’s Global Sourcing team, Dennis travels the world to meet with the growers who supply Frontier’s high quality herbs and spices — often poor farmers with very small individual plots of land who form co-ops to work together. The growers’ communities (commonly small villages) often lack some of the basics we take for granted, like medical care, education, water and electricity. Through our Well Earth® Sustainable Sourcing Program, Frontier Co-op helps these communities with projects like digging wells in Madagascar. One project Dennis has been instrumental in coordinating this year involves building soccer fields and establishing other youth outreach programs in underprivileged villages in Bulgaria.

When he’s home, Dennis travels to nearby towns in Iowa to lend a similar helping hand. As head of Frontier Co-op’s Community Giving Program, Dennis gives $10,000 to our employees’ communities each year. The funds are allocated by an employee committee, going to organizations, charities, events and causes in local communities.

I asked Dennis what it’s like being on the front line of our company’s community donations both at home and around the world.

“I love being able to see the expressions of gratitude for the people, communities and events we help support,” he said. “It’s an honor to work for a company that recognizes the needs that exist both locally and globally — and then walks the walk when it comes to taking an active role in meeting those needs.”

Plenty of opportunities to help

The needs of our local communities are different than those of our suppliers’ villages, but a helping hand can make a real difference here as well. These nearby small towns, like those of our suppliers around the world, are agriculturally based. (When CEO Tony Bedard spent the night at a Vietnamese farmer’s house, he said he was struck the next morning by how much the early activities reminded him of his childhood on an Iowa farm.) The changing economy has stressed both the populations and resources of these rural area towns, providing plenty of opportunities to help.

Frontier Co-op Atkins Fire and Rescue donation

Dennis (right) presenting a $1,000 donation from Frontier Co-op’s Community Giving Program to Atkins, Iowa Fire Chief Gary Lang in June 2014.

For example, our Community Giving Program contributions help volunteer fire departments and ambulance services in several small towns that lack funds to replace and upgrade equipment. (The nearby Blairstown, Iowa, ambulance crew saved my wife’s life by restarting her heart on the way to the hospital, so I know firsthand how crucial these services can be.)

Other community donations have upgraded library shelves, funded school events, replaced aging turnout gear (protective clothing) for volunteer fire fighters and sponsored a high school student service trip to Guatemala. Frontier donations also support charitable efforts our employees participate in, such as the annual fundraisers Especially for You Race Against Breast Cancer and Big Brothers Big Sisters Annual Bowl for Kids’ Sake.

It’s all ‘local giving’

Dennis said the key to the success of our Community Giving Program is the high level of community involvement by Frontier Co-op employees.

“Most requests to support local events and projects come from our employees who are directly involved in the groups, events and communities where the support is needed,” he said. He excitedly listed the checks he delivered recently to schools, libraries and rescue volunteers in the area — clearly proud of the support Frontier Co-op gives to our neighboring communities.

That’s also what Dennis does when he arranges Frontier Co-op’s help with projects in our supplier communities — he helps people he knows and works with improve life for their families and neighbors. It’s all local giving in that sense. And Dennis — along with the rest of Frontier Co-op’s employees, members and customers — takes all this local giving to heart.


Alan MilesAbout the Author: Alan explores ideas and issues related to a sustainable lifestyle — from cooking and culture to social and environmental responsibility. He enjoys Shakespeare, but not as much as college basketball (Go Hawks!). Alan is a family man, liking nothing better than spending time with his wife of 35 years, his four kids and four grandkids.

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