Fifty Years Of Giving To Others
August 31, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--For 50 years, there's been a whole lot of giving going on.
Since 1961, federal employees at Redstone Arsenal and throughout a six-county area have had the opportunity to give back through the Combined Federal Campaign to local and national charities whose causes pull at their heart -- and their purse -- strings.
"For 50 years, we've been sending out the message that we care about the communities where we live, work and play, and that we are committed to making a difference. We can all join forces with other federal employees to make a difference," said Donna Johnson, chairperson of the Local Federal Coordinating Committee, which oversees Tennessee Valley's Combined Federal Campaign.
With such a milestone birthday being recognized during the Sept. 14 Combined Federal Campaign kickoff at the Sparkman Center, Johnson has a challenge for federal employees in the six-county area, and especially at Redstone Arsenal. And it's just the right challenge for a campaign using the theme "50 Years of Caring" throughout its four-month fund-raising effort.
"I want to submit a challenge to all federal donors," she said. "If you've never contributed, make a $50 voluntary contribution to a campaign that helps our community. If you are a loyal donor who contributes to this very worthwhile cause, give an extra $50 more in honor of the 50th anniversary so that we can continue to care for our community and our nation."
Johnson calls her challenge the 50/50 Challenge.
Beyond the 50-year milestone, Johnson feels this year's campaign is more poignant because of the loss and suffering so many Tennessee Valley residents experienced in the wake of the April 27 tornado tragedy.
"I think we have all come to realize that the same help we give may be the same help that comes back to us," Johnson said. "CFC is so powerful in this area, and we had some of our major CFC agencies out in the forefront after the tornadoes.
"CFC is there to help people in their time of need. It could be someone diagnosed with cancer, a baby born premature, a family who lost their home in a fire or tornadoes that destroyed entire communities. These are things that are not discriminating. They affect poor people and rich people. CFC helps not only those who are needy, but also folks in their time of need. It may be that the help you give today will be the same help you need someday."
The Combined Federal Campaign was born March 18, 1961, when President John F. Kennedy signed an executive order forming a charitable donation system that allows federal employees to make payroll deductions and/or one-time voluntary contributions to their favorite charities. In the 50 years that followed, the Combined Federal Campaign has raised more than $6.8 billion for charitable organizations. Also during this time, the campaign has grown to be the most inclusive workplace giving campaign in the world. Today, there are 203 Combined Federal
Campaigns and more than 20,000 charities worldwide participate in those campaigns.
The Tennessee Valley Combined Campaign has grown with the national program, making it number 20 on the list of campaigns that have raised the most funds for charity. There are 65 federal agencies in the six-county area, representing 18,400 federal employees.
The 2011 goal is to raise $2.4 million in the Tennessee Valley campaign. Normally, about half of the money raised is designated to local charities with the other 50 percent designated to national and international charities, all of which are chosen by the federal employee donor.
This year, in the booklet that federal employees will receive during the Tennessee Valley campaign, there are 198 local charity organizations in the listing of 2,200 national and international charities from which federal employees can choose for their donations.
"Your donation is 100 percent employee designated," Johnson said. "You give to the charity that means the most to you. It's your choice. It's an opportunity for you to give through payroll deduction over the entire year."
The national Combined Federal Campaign is held every year from Sept. 1 through Dec. 16. The local campaign follows that calendar, with organizations using the first full week of September to coordinate their efforts, set fund-raising goals and recruit volunteers.
The Sept. 14 CFC kickoff event, set for 10 a.m. at Bob Jones Auditorium, will offer something for everyone. There will be patriotism, brought to the audience through music by local CFC recipient and teenage cancer survivor Lindsey Jones, who will sing the national anthem, and the Army Materiel Command Jazz Band; a sense of duty and responsibility expressed through the words of featured speaker John Nerger, the executive director to Army Materiel Command commander Gen. Ann Dunwoody, and a bit of motivating exuberance contributed to the event by the Sparkman High School Varsity Cheerleaders.
In addition, all attendees at the kickoff will get a chance at winning the grand door prize -- a football signed by 2009 Heisman Trophy winner and former Alabama football player Mark Ingram, now of the New Orleans Saints.
But that's not all. The kickoff will be followed by an agency fair, where Arsenal employees will be invited to visit the information booths of 80 charitable agencies as well as enjoy free pizza, hot dogs, ice cream and cake, a DJ and music provided by Radar magazine, and a chance at more door prizes. The agency fair is held annually on the Sparkman Center parade field between buildings 5303 and 5304.
"We want to give federal donors the opportunity to meet with these agencies and find out about the services they provide to the community," Johnson said. "We want them to actually see some of the benefits of their CFC contributions. That's why we are so glad to have Lindsey Jones as part of our program. She has benefitted from CFC through the Make a Wish Foundation. She is a survivor whose cancer has been in remission for 10 years."
Following the kickoff, Combined Federal Campaign materials will be distributed by Arsenal organizations to their employees. In addition, all other federal employees throughout Madison, Morgan, Marshall, Limestone, Lawrence and Cullman counties, will receive the materials. Those charities listed in the campaign's booklet have been approved by the Tennessee Valley Local Eligibility Committee.
"Those charities have to apply every year to be part of the campaign," Johnson said. "We follow guidelines from the Office of Personnel Management for participation in the campaign. The committee determines if the charities are eligible. We have checked and have done all the leg work to ensure they are actually valid 501c3 charities that meet the guidelines."
Maj. Gen. Jim Rogers, commander of the Aviation and Missile Command and senior commander of Redstone Arsenal, is the honorary chairman of the 2011 campaign. He leads a team of volunteers that includes campaign associates who visit local charities approved for campaign funds.
"We visit a good variety of agencies and see their progress at work in the community," Johnson said. "CFC dollars are making a huge impact in our communities. In these tough economic times, a lot of charities are facing shrinking budgets so they are really depending on our federal dollars. CFC is the only authorized fund-raiser for federal organizations."
In addition, the campaign relies on several volunteers who coordinate campaign efforts within their organizations.
"These financial chairs are also campaign managers who have to establish a goal, have to find the volunteers who will make sure all employees receive the campaign materials, and then have to make sure donations are deposited and that weekly reports are completed," Johnson said. "It is very important that we have made contact with 100 percent of federal employees during the campaign."
Once contributions are made, they are submitted to the United Way of Madison County, the campaign's fiscal manager, which ensures that funds go to designated recipients.
"Federal employees and leadership take ownership of the campaign. It's our campaign ran by our employees," Johnson said. "But once the donations come in, the Office of Personnel Management says we can't touch the money. We have to partner up with a non-profit associate that has experience in fund-raising to serve as the fiscal agent.
"Our campaign is transparent. We are audited and we have 100 percent accountability to make sure the campaign is run in accordance with the Office of Personnel Management."
Although working to reach all 18,400 federal employees in the campaign area, coordinating campaign efforts and working with local charities is a job that requires a lot of time, effort and stamina, Johnson said she is driven by the positives she has seen the Combined Federal Campaign accomplish in local communities.
"I love what I do. It makes me feel good at the end of the day. I'm making a difference and helping others to make a difference," she said.