When heads of households or business owners think of Consumers Energy, their first thought may be of their persistent monthly gas and electric bills.
What they may not be aware of is that the company’s 1,000 employees in the Great Lakes Bay Region, combined with the philanthropic Consumers Energy Foundation, have contributed more than $1.7 million during the past five years—along with thousands of volunteer hours—to an array of worthy causes.
“Accountability is a core value that extends beyond delivering electricity and gas in a safe manner,” says Linda Sims, Consumers Energy executive director of public affairs. “We want people looking at us in a different manner than when they get their bills.”
Consumers Energy’s outreach ranges from familiar activities such as United Way campaigns to one-of-a-kind projects such as constructing a waterside nesting box for peregrine falcons at the Karn-Weadock Generating Complex in Essexville.
Examples of community projects are annual Walk for Warmth events, hosted by anti-poverty community action agencies in Saginaw, Bay, and Midland counties. Consumers Energy employees solicit pledges that are matched by the company, and they proudly identify their employer by wearing special caps and scarves at the event.
“If anyone understands the value of being able to heat your home and live comfortably, it’s a Consumers Energy employee,” says Carolyn Bloodworth, Consumers Energy Foundation’s secretary/treasurer.
She says participation in Walk for Warmth events is a “natural fit” with payment plans Consumers offers for customers in hardship, along with energy-conservation workshops and home and business inspections to help customers reduce electricity and gas usage costs.
Bloodworth says examples of employee involvement are also reflected in the foundation’s Volunteer Investment Program. Employees or retirees of Consumers Energy who volunteer at least 40 hours, either as individuals or in groups, may pursue grants for amounts ranging from $150 to $1,000 for their worthy causes. Grant recipients have ranged from youth sports teams and theater groups to community centers and soup kitchens.
Consumers Energy also partners with various community organizations. The Bay Area Community Foundation managed a $125,000 gift for Bay Commitment College Resource Center scholarships and helped raise a dollar-for-dollar “challenge grant” match. The Saginaw Community Foundation did the same for the renovation of Deindorfer Woods, a municipal park in an area of Saginaw where Consumers Energy employees have also helped build Habitat for Humanity houses.
“We have employees and retirees who have been volunteering for 30, 40, even 50 years,” Sims says. “We take part in the community, and we feel strongly about that.”
During a five-year span, Consumers Energy employees have contributed thousands of hours of volunteer time, and the Consumers Energy Foundation has directed more than $1 million to worthy causes in the Great Lakes Bay Region.