Making the World a Better Place One Hour/Backpack at a Time

Durham, NC – September 17, 2012. Posted by Shelley Hare.

I recently met with Sucheta Jain, COO of Farragut, to find out more about the company’s involvement in our community. Jain is also one of the founders of our organization who started this company along with her husband, Shail Jain, in 1992.

Q: What are the community activites that Farragut is currently involved with?

A: Right now, there are three main programs that we focus on. They are Adopt-A-School, Backpack, Buddies, and NC Greenpower.

Q: Can you tell us a little more about each one?

A: The Adopt-A-School program is where an organization picks a school to focus their time and attention on. In our case, we picked Parkwood Elementary School here in Durham. The employees, as well as myself, tutor the (Parkwood Elementary students) in math and reading. To encourage more and more employees to get involved, we give them one hour of company time a week to dedicate to (tutoring) a student.

The Backpack Buddies program is (another) fantastic program that we partner with. It provides students with food for over the weekend. Eligible students receive backpacks filled with enough food for six healthy meals and two snacks. The children take the bags home over the weekend and return them on Mondays.

Finally, NC Greenpower is a landmark initiative that we support to help us reduce our environmental impact. As a nonprofit organization, NC Greenpower focuses on improving NC’s environment through voluntary contributions toward renewable energy and the mitigation of greenhouse gases.

Q: How did you decide on these particular opportunities for volunteerism?

A: We wanted to invest in something for the long term. Whatever programs that we decided to get involved in, we wanted them to help leave our future generations in better shape than when we started.

Two things that are very dear to my heart are education and the environment. Therefore, I wanted to figure out a way to support both education and the environment in our local community.

With education we had two options. One, we can give money to schools. Two, we can tutor. I decided that tutoring is a better way to give to your future generations. This way, we are looking each child in the eye and telling them, “You are important. I am here for you”. Next we had to pick a school. We picked Parkwood Elementary School for a few reasons – because it was in the neighborhood and because I wanted to reach students early in their education. We started this program in 2000 and continue to return to this school year after year.

The Backpack Buddies program was something that I read about in the newspaper over four years ago. I remember thinking, if kids are hungry over the weekend because they can’t get food in their home, how can they focus on their school work? Backpack Buddies then became another way to encourage and support education in young children.

I encourage employees to donate to this cause each month and our company matches the donations that each employee puts forth. I also personally contribute for five backpacks every week. I hate the thought of a child going hungry.

We decided to donate to the nonprofit organization, NC Greenpower, because of its goal to improve the environment in a variety of ways. I just feel that natural resources like solar and wind are so easily renewable if we invest in them. I wanted us to do our part to help the environment more. I love seeing the windmills and love to see solar power at work. I wish there could be even more ways to use these natural resources.

Q: How many employees are currently involved with each program and what kind of results have you achieved?

A: For the 2011-2012 school year six of our employees were involved on a weekly basis with the Adopt-A-School program and tutored an approximate total of 250 hours. For the upcoming school year, 2012-2013, we have ten employees signed up and ready to tutor!

Twenty-one of our employees are currently participating in the Backpack Buddies Program. For the 2011-2012 school year we donated 60 bags a week for a total of 12,960 meals.

NC Greenpower is receiving donations from seventeen of our employees to help us offset our annual electricity usage by supporting renewable energy.

Q: Why do you feel that it is important for Farragut and its employees to be involved in community activities?

A: I think it is related to that feeling deep down that we all want to do something more than just feeding ourselves and our families. I feel that everyone wants to help out in some way and by offering these programs, it gives our employees encouragement and a way to give back. My belief is that our purpose for being on this earth is to leave it better than when we found it.