Nourishing the Roots of the Community

Growing Much More than Citrus as Florida’s Natural Growers Foundation Focuses on Local Charities

The Spirit of Giving is alive and well this time of year, and many companies talk the talk about their corporate giving. However, one organization that really walks the walk—and has for years—is right in our own backyard. The Florida’s Natural Growers Foundation is really hitting its stride in its sixth year of charitable giving with an inspiring $169,600 awarded in mini-grants to over 60 organizations and groups. That brings the Foundation’s total since its inception to over $650,000 given to groups that channel their efforts locally.[emember_protected custom_msg=”Click here and register now to read the rest of the article!”]

Foundation President, Walt Lincer, maintained that the Foundation was a way to “formalize our giving and to be even more involved in the local areas of our employees and growers.” Lincer spread the credit around like presents from Santa, asserting that it’s the local focus that has made the corporation’s charitable giving such a success. Everyone from the Cooperative of Growers to employees of the organization donate to the cause. Proceeds to fund the Foundation’s grants are derived mainly from The Florida’s Natural Charity Classic golf tournament in March—over 60 percent of the funds in 2013— but the Foundation also hosts a fundraiser 5K and a silent auction in the week leading up to the tournament; individuals, suppliers, and partners also contribute as well. As the icing on the cake, 100 percent of the proceeds raised goes into the mini-grants, as employees of Florida’s Natural Growers complete any necessary Foundation work.

The Foundation’s track record has proved that it’s a winning strategy they have going over there at Florida’s Natural Growers. Lincer shared that the funds donated by the Foundation in 2009 totaled $70,000, while this year’s giving was nearly $170,000. Lincer held that they all have optimistic aims, saying, “In the future, we hope to double the support given . . . ”

Florida’s Natural Growers is well-known for supporting environmental responsibility through initiatives like solar energy and water conservation; as their products are native-grown, a respect for the land is second nature. However, it seems as if they should be as recognized for their charitable giving as well. Lincer says, “We have a responsibility to our employees and grower members’ communities to try and make their neighborhoods a better place to live and work.” Each of the 14 Grower-Members recommends a local charity or organization to the Foundation. The rest of the recipients are chosen through a grant process by the Foundation Board. The Foundation awards mini-grants to charities and organizations that offer direct benefits to the community. “Our mission is to support the areas of health, education and youth,” Lincer explains. The list of award recipients is dotted with schools, food banks, and health centers.

Lincer maintains that the Foundation’s giving only strengthens Florida’s Natural Growers’ corporate culture. Voted as one of the Best Places to Work in the Polk County area for three years running, Lincer states, “It is a great feeling to support organizations in the communities that we are able to help. It’s where everyone has roots— from the growers to the employees and to those who benefit from the mini-grants— and every farmer knows what happens when you nourish the roots of a thing,” he continues, “whether a plant or a community. As we help others, the future becomes brighter for all of us.”



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