Colorado Springs’ companies encourage philanthropy but decline publicity

The dedicated life is the life worth living. You must give with your whole heart.”

— Annie Dillard

Ideas behind corporate philanthropy, a movement made popular by Andrew Carnegie and other business giants of his day, began as a way to make the nation a better place. Over the years, foundations started by Carnegie and people like Spencer and Julie Penrose still remain a strong backbone of philanthropy. In today’s corporate giving landscape, it’s not unusual for companies like Phillip Morris Companies Inc., owner of Kraft and Marlboro, to toot loudly about efforts to better the world through donations.

But many companies hesitate to mention what or how they give back to the community, because lending a helping hand to others isn’t about company publicity; it’s about making a difference in someone’s life.

We spoke with two people from local home building and development companies who, though reluctant to talk about their good deeds, succumbed to discussing how and why giving back to the community is important.

Smith, along with most of his employees, took a half-day last Friday to volunteer with Silver Key and lend a hand assisting an elderly couple with home maintenance and other house projects.

“We didn’t do this from a publicity standpoint,” said Smith. “I think we get so desensitized from seeing companies who volunteer and there isn’t any genuine intent.”

Smith still has a bad taste in his mouth from companies who are all talk and no heart. One Christmas, Smith went to a nursing home with his company and the public relations department had invited the media along to display its workers doing something good as a positive spin on the company.

“If no one finds out that we did this, that’s OK, because that’s not why we’re doing it,” said Smith. “We’re not seeking attention.”

Shelley Lajudice, vice president of marketing for Keller Homes agrees with Smith’s philosophy.

“We make our living in Colorado Springs and we feel it’s important to give back to the community that gives to us,” she said. “We feel it’s important to make Colorado Springs a better home for everybody.” Keller Homes puts on an annual golf tournament, and this year the proceeds will go to Greccio Housing, an organization which assists people in finding affordable housing. Last year the tournament raised nearly $10,000 and is anticipated to make $15,000 this year. Keller Homes also does Christmas in April, assisting in remodeling and maintenance for low income housing, as well as sponsor families around Christmas in December.

“Most is for senior citizens who don’t have the ability to do it themselves,” Lajudice said. “Cleaning their backyards, installing appliances and painting walls or putting up handicap facilities in the bathroom.

“The main thing is it’s rewarding to know that you are helping out someone that needs help and to see something that is done at the end of the day,” she said.

In most cases, Lajudice said they don’t send out press releases about such projects. “Our sole motivation is to give back, and it’s everyone I speak for, subcontractors etc. It’s a great effort from everyone.”