Editor's Notebook: Giving Locally, Acting Globally

Kimberly-Clark Professional offers one example, among many, of the ways companies involved in the business of safety step up to the challenge when disaster strikes.

Every day the front page of our newspapers read like a “Worst Weather Disasters” special report on the Weather Channel. Safety equipment manufacturers and distributors who operate at locations and around the country and world are not immune to these reports or the weather. Often, their facilities are in or near some of the regions struck by natural disasters. Kimberly-Clark Corp. is one such company.

On June 30, Kimberly-Clark Professional (the segment of Kimberly-Clark Corp. that manufactures products sold to the occupational safety and health market) announced it was donating jumbo roll wipers, KleenGuard gloves and KleenGuard M-Series particulate respirators to help businesses and residents in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, clean up from the extensive damage caused by the recent flooding. This is one of several donations the company has made to communities hard hit by flooding in recent weeks.

I have to tell you, when I hear of donations of this nature – and there have been many made over the years by a number of manufacturers of safety products – I get a little misty. Call it a Hallmark moment for me.

I spoke with Larry Nedrow, director of the wiper business for Kimberly-Clark Professional, North America, who just returned from a trip to the flood-ravaged areas of the Midwest. “Kimberly-Clark Corp. has a fundamental philosophy to give back to the communities around the globe where we operate,” he told me.

Sometimes, the company has a facility in the area and reaches out to the community through those employees. Other times, a distributor of its products asks for help for a community in which it’s located. Or, a call for help might come in from FEMA or another local, state or federal agency.

But even when a company is willing and even eager to help, it’s not always easy to get the ball rolling. Not so at Kimberly-Clark Corp., says Nedrow.

“I’m delighted at how well we’ve responded,” he says. “We’re an $18 billion company with lots of rules and regulations, but it’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it.”

Nedrow was a plant manager at the company’s San Antonio, Tex. facility when Hurricane Katrina struck and thousands of displaced residents from New Orleans started arriving in Texas. One of Kimberly-Clark Professional’s distributors, Fisher Safety, had contracted to provide thousands of dollars of Kimcare Body Shampoo to the facilities providing shelter for Hurricane Katrina victims and contacted Nedrow on a Saturday.

“There was no paperwork,” Nedrow remembers. “I was promised payment ‘sometime.’ As we loaded up that truck, I thought, ‘Oh, what am I doing?’ But I was empowered to make that decision and I made it. And we had a check by the following Wednesday.”

Partnering with the Red Cross

In July 2007, Kimberly-Clark Corp. declared its commitment to help the American Red Cross fulfill basic human needs during times of disaster by becoming a member of the Annual Disaster Giving Program (ADGP). Pledging to donate $1 million payable over 5 years, Kimberly-Clark will donate annual sums of $100,000 for the Disaster Relief Fund, $50,000 for the International Relief Fund and on a more local level, $50,000 for the Dallas Red Cross Chapter.

ADGP members pledge donations on an on-going basis in expectation of major disasters to help the American Red Cross identify and fund programs that better prepare communities and families for disasters. Additionally, this dedicated group of ADGP donors helps make it possible for the Red Cross to provide food, shelter and other assistance to the victims of thousands of disasters across the country each year and ensures the American Red Cross has a stable base of funding to fulfill its mission.

“Communities often think of the Red Cross after a disaster has already affected thousands of lives. ADGP members are truly unique because they ensure the Red Cross has the resources to respond before a disaster strikes,” said Kathleen Loehr, interim senior vice president of Development at the American Red Cross.

Although Kimberly-Clark Corp. is a new member of ADGP, they have been a Red Cross partner in disaster relief for a number of years. Historically, Kimberly-Clark Corp. and its employees have actively supported the American Red Cross in its efforts to assist those impacted by disasters nationwide through volunteerism and financial and product contributions.

“Supporting the needs of families around the world by helping communities prevent, prepare for and respond to disasters is at the heart of our partnership with the American Red Cross,” said Carolyn Mentesana, vice president, Kimberly-Clark Foundation. “All of us at Kimberly-Clark hope this gift will enable the American Red Cross to sustain and create initiatives that will help prepare and provide the immediate needs of those who suffer as a result of natural and manmade disasters.”

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