On Friday, more than 60 Republic workers nailed shingles, painted and designed large playhouses with school, space and recycling themes.
“These were really large playhouses we built on a job site to surprise families with before Christmas," says Hunter, Republic’s Charitable Giving senior manager. “We were able to construct and paint and design them. The creativity was really amazing.”
Hunter’s team put a trash and recycling bin inside one house with a Republic logo on the door. Families in the central city south neighborhood near downtown Phoenix were surprised with the playhouses during their annual Christmas party.
The playhouses were a dream of community leaders who wanted to revitalize a “sparse” elementary school playground and spread holiday cheer to a child whose parent is serving oversees in the military.
“Central city south is low-income, a median of $24,000,” says Micaela Cheatham, assistant director of Habitat for Humanity Central Arizona. “This is one of the highest needs communities we’ve ever gone into.”
When Habitat for Humanity committed the next five years to building new homes and improving older homes in the neighborhood, Republic saw it as an opportunity to do their part. In addition to the playhouses, employees volunteered to make home repairs for residents with collapsing roofs or plant community gardens.
“Republic is one of the first major companies that came on board in this community,” Cheatham says. “For us, it legitimized the work we’re doing.”
Through the new Neighborhood Promise program—in which Republic partners with local nonprofits to directly support neighborhood projects through grants and in-kind work--Republic aims to make an impact where drivers work and live.
“We have 15,000 drivers that make up our 35,000 employees,” Hunter says. “They live in these neighborhoods; their kids go to school there. There’s such a close connection and a close tie to what we’re doing locally. The magic really happens in those local connections.”
Over the years, Republic employees across the country have given back in their own ways, from building cubicles for a local swimming pool to organizing cleanup days in neglected neighborhoods. Hunter recalls a community cleanup where workers were hauling old furniture and garbage from residents’ porches in Philadelphia.
“We realized from a corporate perspective—serving 40 states and Puerto Rico—we were giving to different events, contributing in different ways, but nothing was very strategic,” Hunter says. “We couldn’t at the end of the day say, ‘Wow. This is what we accomplished a company.’”
Republic’s Charitable Foundation awarded grants to 8 nonprofits this year and will distribute a second round of grants in 2019 toward neighborhood revitalization projects. In 2019, Hunter plans to launch an employee giving and volunteer program to support the projects.
While growing the national giving program, Hunter will continue to help the central city south neighborhood.
“I mean, we’re used to doing messy jobs,” Hunter says. “That’s what we’re good at and a lot of the projects call for that, so it’s been really need to see that direct connection where it feels very natural for our company.”