Cummins Inc. employees took the phrase “Living our values” to new heights last year, establishing a company record for volunteerism by contributing 308,783 hours to community projects worldwide.
That marked a 40 percent increase from 2012 and represented almost 10 hours per employee who volunteered.
Bartholomew County benefited from the donation of time and talent in a variety of ways, including a recycling event, improved efficiency of a nonprofit organization, math and reading tutoring for students, rehabilitation of homes and the first Mill Race Marathon.
Volunteering has been part of the company’s fabric for a long time, said Mark Levett, vice president of corporate responsibility and CEO of the Cummins Foundation.
“We’ve got such a rich history, and (the late Cummins Inc. Chairman J. Irwin) Miller has some great quotes that speak to that,” Levett said. “Among my favorites are those where he talks about corporate responsibility being as important as your profits, your product and your buildings at Cummins, because that’s a pretty bold statement.”
Local residents benefit
Cummins employees in Bartholomew County have embraced that philosophy.
They organize a large recycling day in Columbus every year, which annually includes more than 100 volunteers, and smaller environmentally focused events. The group collected 67,075 pounds of recyclable materials, including 30,280 pounds of electronic waste and 19,440 pounds of tires during this year’s event on June 19.
Community involvement is a way of life at Cummins, said Mark Slaton, a Cummins environmental engineer and one of the event organizers.
“Sometimes it’s hard to get off the line, but the company provides that opportunity and encourages,” Slaton said. “It’s a vital piece of what we are doing in southern Indiana and around the world, and some of our supervisors and company leaders are a big part of these activities.”
Mila Dempsey, who has worked at the Cummins Midrange Engine Plant in Walesboro for five years, was among those who volunteered at the recycling day event. Community involvement is as important to the employees as it is to Cummins, she said.
“I do environmental compliance work, and I have a passion for recycling and reuse. So I wanted to help out with the event,” Dempsey said. “I was on the planning committee, and I was in charge of getting the pizza and the gloves and communicating to my plant. I actually really enjoy it.”
Last year, a group of Cummins employees helped Sans Souci, the Columbus low-cost and no-cost thrift store, organize its flow of merchandise.
“Our experts know how to handle material, so we went in and helped figure out how they can make things more efficient,” Levett said. “It used to be a logistical disaster, but we organized the flow of merchandise so they could process more material.”
Sheryl Adams, executive director of Sans Souci, said it would be impossible for the nonprofit to recruit the caliber of people that volunteered from Cummins.
“They have made a huge difference in our organization,” Adams said. “The team that came in worked with us for nine months to redesign our warehouse donation center, and through a grant from the Cummins Foundation we were able to purchase the equipment we needed.”
Cummins recently started a “Buy a pair, give a pair” program to benefit Sans Souci.
Cummins employees purchase new steel-toed shoes on a regular basis from vendors who visit the company plants at scheduled times throughout the year. The program encourages employees to donate their gently used safety shoes or boots when the truck is on site for Sans Souci customers and clients. Sans Souci already has supplied 40 pairs of shoes to people starting a new job this year, Adams said.
Cummins marketing employees are helping Sans Souci with rebranding, which includes a redesigned and updated website and Facebook page and a new logo.
One of the most encouraging things about the Cummins volunteer efforts is that they are duplicated at other agencies and organizations throughout Columbus, Adams said.
Local Cummins employees also have contributed to programs to benefit Love Chapel, the Book Buddies and Minds on Math tutoring programs, the Mill Race Marathon and Habitat for Humanity.
Cummins’ local education efforts include participation in the iGrad program in Bartholomew County schools, which has the goal of achieving a high school graduation rate of 100 percent.
Opportunity to contribute
Last year, 5,437 employees assigned to Cummins sites in Bartholomew County completed 50,610 hours of Every Employee Every Community activities — about nine hours per employee. Cummins had about 7,600 employees working in the county in 2013, which translates into a 72 percent participation rate.
Through June of this year, 2,200 employees assigned to Cummins sites in Bartholomew County completed 19,943 hours of Every Employee activities. The company has about 8,300 employees working at Bartholomew County sites this year.
Companywide, the percentage of Cummins employees engaged in the Every Employee program increased from 63 percent in 2013 to 67 percent in 2014.
The program provides employees with the opportunity to contribute at least four hours on company time to his or her community. Many employees, particularly those engaged in skills-based projects, contribute significantly more each year and, with company approval, can also get paid for additional hours.
Sara McAninch, a corporate communications specialist, estimates she contributed about 50 volunteer hours last year.
“My goal is to do about 20 this year because I’m coming from another area to a new position,” said McAninch, who helped organize a recent recycling event at Mill Race Park. “It’s been great because we also get cooperation from community partners that want to help out as well, and we couldn’t do it without the support of our supervisors.”
Carole Casto, Cummins’ executive director for corporate communications, said the company puts a strong emphasis on character when hiring new employees.
“We can train for skills, so we want to make sure we are hiring people that enjoy giving back and enjoy serving their community,” Casto said. “They make for a much happier employee, and we’re going to see that in their work and in how they engage, and that’s a win for Cummins.”
The screening process often begins even before employees are hired, said James Hopkins, a manager in the finance and industrial relations division.
“We make sure that we want to really ingrain in the interns our culture of corporate responsibility,” said Hopkins, who estimated he has logged about 20 hours of volunteer work already this year. “The more they can understand and embrace the corporate culture and community culture, the better.”