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Column: Newell Rubbermaid realigns its charitable operations

By Maria Saporta
Published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on December 20, 2013

Atlanta-based Newell Rubbermaid is restructuring is philanthropic focus — dissolving the Newell Rubbermaid Foundation, which is less than three years old — and realigning its giving efforts to be more in sync with marketing its brands.

Michael Polk, who has been CEO of Newell Rubbermaid since July 2011, said the company will continue to invest in its communities and encourage volunteerism among its employees.

“Our contributions may actually go up,” Polk said in a brief conversation at the annual meeting of the Metro Atlanta Chamber. He added that the new focus will combine volunteerism, marketing and philanthropy. “It will connect the three together. Unfortunately, when you have a foundation, it constricts what you can do.”

As a result of the new focus, Jackie Parker, president of the Newell Rubbermaid Foundation and vice president of corporate philanthropy, is leaving the company. Parker has been with Newell Rubbermaid since 2006 — joining as the new vice president of global inclusion and diversity and launching the corporation’s philanthropy efforts in 2007.

“I’m proud Newell Rubbermaid will continue to build on my legacy and carry the torch forward in all of the global communities where we live and work,” Parker wrote in an email. “I am excited about the future and the ability to continue making an impact in Atlanta, which remains my passion.”

Polk said: “Jackie has done a phenomenal job.” Going forward, the company’s “Integrated Investing in Community” efforts will be led by Ildemaro Gonzalez, who is currently director of inclusion, diversity and global readiness.

When initially launched in May 2011, the foundation was expected to have an endowment of $25 million within five years. The company’s CEO at the time was Mark Ketchum.

Today, the foundation’s endowment is about $2.5 million, which will be dispersed in the community over the next several months.

Polk said the company will continue to support strategic partnerships, such as the $1 million alliance it announced with Habitat for Humanity International earlier this year. Newell Rubbermaid’s brands, such as Levolor and Calphalon, are popular products for the home.

“I’m accepting the risk that some people won’t understand what we are doing,” Polk said. But he believes time will prove Newell Rubbermaid’s continued civic commitment. Earlier this year, the company had its first Global Day of Service through its partnership with Habitat; it just finished celebrating its “Week of Caring” initiative; and it will continue to make cash and in-kind contributions.

Aaron’s and Warrick Dunn

A three-way partnership with Aaron’s Inc., Warrick Dunn and Habitat for Humanity is bringing smiles and warmth to families for the holidays.

On Tuesday, Dec. 17, two metro Atlanta families were surprised with a new place to call home. Former Atlanta Falcons football player Warrick Dunn provided a $5,000 check for the down payments for each of the two Atlanta Habitat for Humanity homes. And Aaron’s fully furnished each home — a value of about $10,000. The first home was in East Point — surprising a single mom and her two children, and the second one was in southwest Atlanta.

Ron Allen, CEO of Aaron’s Inc., said those two homes were the 91st and 92nd homes that it has furnished in partnership with Warrick Dunn over the past decade.

“We have been affiliated with him for 10 years, and we’ve been a partner with his ‘Home for the Holidays’ program in several different cities,” said Allen, who added that it is especially meaningful when Dunn tells his own story of being raised by a single mother — a police officer in Baton Rouge, La., who was killed in the line of duty.

Allen, who has been CEO of Aaron’s since Nov. 7, 2011, estimated that Aaron’s has invested the equivalent of about $920,000 in the decade-long initiative.

Delta Credit Union

Georgia’s largest credit union is feeling the largesse of the season.

The Delta Community Credit Union, which serves more than 285,000 members, is donating a total of $70,000 to 15 organizations in metro Atlanta. The grants range from $500 to $10,000, and they will be distributed throughout 2014, beginning in January.

The 2014 Philanthropic Fund grant recipients include: the Atlanta Community Food Bank, the Brain Tumor Foundation, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta’s Reach Out and Read Program, the Cobb Schools Foundation, Cool Girls, Fayette Youth Protection, Georgia Health Sciences, the Georgia Center for Nonprofits, Girls Inc., the Joseph Sams School, North Fulton Community Charities, Rocky Mount Elementary School, Sara Harp Minter Elementary School, St. Vincent de Paul and the YWCA of Greater Atlanta.

“Out of dozens of applications, these grant winners are most closely in alignment with our goals to help families manage household finances and improve the physical and financial well-being of young people,” said Jai Rogers, the credit union’s vice president of business development.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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