A chance to give: Toyota Material Handling, Cummins make annual gifts to local nonprofits

Jennifer Rumsey helped bring Christmas joy to struggling families when she was a youngster volunteer with her parents delivering Columbus Firemen’s Cheer Fund toys and food baskets to homes years ago. She saw children’s faces light up.

“I still have that memory in my mind,” said Rumsey, now president and chief executive officer of Cummins Inc.

The business leader reminisced after a small gathering Monday afternoon to highlight Cummins and Toyota Material Handling North America’s annual holiday gifts to local nonprofits, including the Firemens Cheer Fund. The ceremony unfolded at Toyota’s T-Rex fitness center at the company plant on Ironwood Drive in Columbus.

Together, Toyota and Cummins donated a total of $20,000, divided at $5,000 each, among four United Way of Bartholomew County agencies:

  • Just Friends Adult Day Services, which primarily provides activities and social interaction for frail seniors needing a measure of daytime care or supervision.
  • Community Center of Hope, an early learning center and also a food pantry.
  • Advocates For Children, defending the needs of youngsters involved in court cases involving abuse or neglect.
  • Columbus Firemens Cheer Fund, bringing toys and food baskets to struggling families at Christmas.

It marked the fifth year that the two firms’ leaders made the donations, according to organizers. But both companies claim a history of decades of generosity locally, ranging from financial gifts to donating employee manpower to in-kind contributions of equipment and more.

This nonprofit giving grew out of a lunch meeting a few years ago between Tom Linebarger, Cummins Inc.’s chairman, and Brett Wood, president and chief executive officer of Toyota Material Handling North America. It has become a highly visible way for the two firms to make a difference in the county — and to thank the United Way agencies for all they do for many of this area’s struggling residents.

Wood also pointed out that he and Linebarger decided to make the giving a public event not to boast of their kindness or their firms’ benevolence, but to encourage others to give to area nonprofits, too — and also to recognize the local United Way’s substantial reach and influence in changing lives for the better.

“This is just one vehicle to get the news (about giving) out there,” Wood said.

“Toyota has partnered with Cummins for the past five years to benefit the wonderful organizations that care for so many people in our community of Columbus. It’s wonderful to see the different opportunities that Toyota finds to give back throughout the year that further our core purpose, ‘to contribute to society.’ I’m also very glad that Jennifer Rumsey, the new Cummins CEO, has continued this tradition with us. Our companies are lucky to be part of Columbus and I know that we are both glad to make a difference in the community this giving season,” Wood said.

Figures show that, either through donations or assistance, the local United Way impacts one-third of the county population in one form or another, with programs ranging from senior health and exercise to youth mentoring programs to job training programs especially for the underemployed.

United Way President Mark Stewart praised the firms for their community commitment.

“Cummins and Toyota are some our community’s biggest supporters, and they are strong corporate partners in the social service sector,” Stewart said. “We couldn’t do what we do without the generosity, advocacy, and care they have for people in our community.”

Jayme Zobrist, executive director of Just Friends Adult Day Services, said its $5,000 gift will be used partly to take clients Christmas shopping so they can enjoy holiday time as perhaps they did years ago, and also to provide respite care to weary caregivers.

“We’re excited to be able to give that to them,” Zobrist said.

John Nickoll, program director for Advocates For Children, called it “an honor” to be included in Toyota and Cummins’ gifting. He mentioned that the nonprofit has served about 600 children in its program this year through the assistance of the program’s trained volunteer Court Appointed Special Advocates.