By Alicia Hoisington
Brian Bailey and his wife Karen made a $25,000 donation to fund mental health awareness programs in their community.
As the Rocky Fork Company approached its 25th anniversary, owner Brian Bailey wanted to give back to his community in a big way.
“We have parties and do fun things with our associates and customers several times a year. I wanted to do something more to honor our 25th year of being in business,” says Bailey of the New Albany, OH-based landscaping, fencing and snow removal business.
His original idea was to make donations to favorite charities of the company’s long-time customers. But that idea grew bigger after attending a Mariel Hemingway program offered by a local community foundation.
“I knew we needed to start a dialogue in our own community, and I was committed,” Bailey says.
And so Bailey, along with his wife Karen, established a fund at the New Albany Community Foundation to support mental health initiatives.
“The announcement of the fund creation at our annual Christmas party was met with enthusiastic response from our associates, and many thanked me personally for targeting mental health initiatives,” Bailey says. “That’s when I knew we were doing the right thing for our company.”
Bailey says the fund was created to support mental health awareness issues in local schools and the community at large.
“With the availability of social media channels, today’s kids are just brutal to each other - and finding programs to make them aware that their words not only hurt but can create long-term mental health problems in their peers was a place we wanted to start,” Bailey says.
Thanks to the fund, the Love Without Hurt program is now being offered. The program’s mission is to provide teen dating abuse education, awareness and prevention in schools and communities while creating teen leaders to advocate and impact the lives of their peers.
Another school program is called Cope, provided to area sixth, eighth and 11th graders. It is a group-based prevention program that targets coping with traumatic stressors. But it doesn’t stop there. The program Sources of Strength harnesses the power of social media to change unhealthy networks and patterns, according to Bailey.
“To our knowledge we are the first community in the nation to identify and offer these particular programs together at no charge in our schools, and for that I’m proud to be part of it,” Bailey says.
“Community health education benefits everyone: parents, youth, teachers, first responders,” says Abbey Brooks, program manager for Healthy New Albany, a local wellness center. “Programs give each person the tools they need to be successful and healthy and, when they are offered free of charge due to grants from companies like the Rocky Fork Company, make those individuals feel valued and truly cared for by their community.”
Bailey says one requirement he requested of the programming administrators was that each program needed to have a verifiable way to track outcomes. The reason is simple: “We intend to identify more school districts willing to offer mental health programming and offer support by sharing what we have learned and implemented,” he says.
In addition to the foundation fund, Bailey says Rocky Fork has a long history of giving back, including bagging groceries for the Salvation Army during the holidays; cleaning up vacant lots; sponsoring holes at customers’ charitable golf outings; and mowing lawns and plowing driveways for military veterans and deployed soldiers. The company also supports the charities its associates work with by donating funds, offering paid time off when volunteering and offering prize packages for charity auctions.
A responsibility to communities
Bailey says the act of providing community service and charitable efforts is a responsibility business owners have to their communities, associates and customers “to give support back to those that allow you to stay in business in the first place.”
“Never do charitable work because you think it’s going to be good for business,” he says. “It just doesn’t work that way.”
Bailey says there are many ways companies can give back to their communities. If he could offer some advice, he says he would suggest company leaders pick something they feel strongly about or hold a passion for and first volunteer some time.
“Nothing makes a person feel more complete than helping their fellow man in some small way,” he says. “When someone smiles back at you and offers a heartfelt thanks, it’s a better feeling than landing the big contract.”
Alicia Hoisington is a freelance writer based in Cleveland. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.