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Corporate involvement:

Convoy of Hope’s vital link to aid the suffering

By Kirk Noonan

It’s a deal that could potentially save thousands of lives. Procter & Gamble has given Convoy of Hope $50,000 to purchase more than 1 million PUR water purification packets. Convoy representatives will distribute the packets throughout the world in impoverished and disaster-ravaged areas.

“The packet is about half the size of a credit card and filled with a powder that kills harmful bacteria and viruses,” says Rick Waggoner, corporate relations director at Convoy of Hope. “In 30 minutes contaminated water is crystal clear and safe to drink.”

That’s good news for the 1.1 billion people who do not have access to clean drinking water. It’s also an example of how corporations — big and small — help Convoy of Hope to meet the basic needs of hundreds of thousands of people each year.

“Convoy of Hope mobilizes and resources churches, care-givers and other groups to conduct community outreaches, respond to disasters, and direct other compassion initiatives throughout the world,” says Hal Donaldson, co-founder and president of the Springfield, Mo.-based organization. “We are only able to do that because of the generous support of organizations, individuals and corporations.”

Each year more than 100 corporations donate products and monetary gifts to Convoy of Hope. Doing so is good business and provides tax benefits for corporations. But it also demonstrates community involvement and social responsibility, which go a long way with employees and customers.

Waggoner says there are myriad reasons why corporations trust Convoy of Hope with their financial contributions and products. But two of Convoy’s greatest advantages, he adds, are its ability to multiply dollars and the extensive AG missionary network that reaches around the world.

Erick Meier, Convoy’s procurement director, concurs.

“Because of our strategic partnerships we are able to turn every dollar we receive into $7 worth of food and supplies,” he says. “We’re also able to move product quickly and efficiently throughout the world.”

America’s Incredible Pizza Company, based in Tulsa, Okla., has partnered regularly with Convoy of Hope.

Rick Barsness, founder and owner of Incredible Pizza, asked all of his employees to consider taking part in Convoy of Hope’s One Day to Feed the World project. The employees responded enthusiastically and raised thousands of dollars. Incredible Pizza also donated kitchen equipment that Convoy sent to El Salvador where it is now being used to help train young people in job skills. On another occasion, employees took part in supporting Convoy’s HopeWalk.

“One of the things that initially attracted us to Convoy of Hope was their ability to deliver on what they said they would do,” says Barsness. “This kind of partnership helps us create a healthy environment for our employees as we model our values before them. We are teaching them the importance of giving out of their abundance. I believe every company should provide their employees such opportunities.”

Many corporations go beyond donating monetarily or giving gifts in kind. Last year executives from Frito-Lay came to Springfield for meetings. During a break in their meetings Frito-Lay employees filled hundreds of Convoy of Hope bags with school supplies that Frito-Lay had purchased. A few months later those bags were distributed to impoverished children in Central America.

“Getting employees involved with Convoy of Hope builds loyalty,” says Waggoner. “When employees and customers see companies like Frito-Lay doing good for others, employees are more likely to stay and customers are more likely to continue buying their products.”

Meier says the Coca-Cola North America Company regularly donates drinks such as Powerade and water. Other companies provide cereal, grains, pasta, granola bars, cleaning supplies, canned goods, hygiene kits, school supplies and more.

“The first year we began receiving gifts in kind, we received about $2 million worth of product,” says Meier. “Since then we have earned the trust of several major corporations and now receive nearly $40 million (wholesale) worth of gifts in kind each year.”

Meier points out that when Convoy’s warehouse is full or if a ministry or organization makes known a need, products are diverted to where they are needed most.

“One of our greatest strengths is being a supply line that helps other ministries and organizations,” he says. 

Hundreds of ministries, churches and civic organizations benefit from Convoy’s commitment to share food and supplies from its 300,000-square-foot warehouse.

Convoy also works closely with corporations that need to move inventory. Convoy of Hope’s fleet of semi-trucks, provided by Speed the Light, makes it possible to move large quantities quickly.

“When companies donate excess inventory they get to write it off at book value. So it’s a win-win for both of us,” says Waggoner.

One of the best ways for business owners and corporate executives to get acquainted with Convoy of Hope and the work it does with the impoverished and those reeling from disaster, says Waggoner, is to attend an outreach or go on one of Convoy’s annual HopeWalks.

“At either of those events people fall in love with what God is doing through Convoy of Hope,” he says. “When you’re actually on the ground helping people, that’s easy to do.”

Stateside outreaches have been organized in the following cities:  Aug. 1 in Brandon, Fla., and Houston, Texas; Aug. 15 in Mountain Home, Ark.; Sept. 19 in Bay Point, Calif.

KIRK NOONAN is managing editor of Today’s Pentecostal Evangel.

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