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Marketing Edge Magazine – August 2012

In Your Own Backyard

Jody Steinhauer, president of Bargains Group and PPPC’s humanitarian of the year, knows a thing or two about giving back. Founder of Project Winter Survival and Project Water, she recently created the tagline “Give back where you live.” Steinhauer thinks the promotional products industry is in a perfect position to be charitable.

Steinhauer’s company helps organize two major seasonal events related to helping the homeless. In the summer, Project Water gives out over 6,000 water bottles to homeless people while Project Winter Survival donates survival kits that include over 34 necessities such as basic toiletry items, some food, a hat and mitts, a sleeping bag and a backpack.

The project solicits items throughout the year; considering the size of the promotional products industry, Steinhauer says every company should and can donate.

“We all have samples, discontinued items or ones with slight imperfections, out of stock, no colour match — we all have this stock left sitting in a warehouse — there’s a million reasons why people have stuff and instead of sitting in a showroom why not get involved in a project and donate?”

The organization also collects funds ($25) for kits that help buy the harder to get items such as the sleeping bags and backpacks.

This year the organization hopes to create 3,000 kits to deliver to over 100 front-line agencies, such as the Salvation Army, Red Cross, local shelters and drop-in programs in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA). “These agencies then distribute the kits to the most vulnerable people who are living on the streets.”

And, it’s not about necessarily just donating money to a cause, says Steinhauer: “It’s about engaging employees and being part of a community.” Many employees and volunteers gather in January for a huge packing party where they assemble the kits.

For a long time, Steinhauer says companies were reticentto donate, but gradually, she’s seeing a shift. Donors are realizing that what they can contribute is in their own backyard.

Headwear Canada gave winter toques, while Superex gave over 3,000 rain ponchos and tarps, and Debco gave water bottles.

“When you have a branded product (leftover from a promotion, or project) what do you do with it? To ensure it’s not sold elsewhere, donate it.”

To date, more than 10,000 survival kits have been distributed to shelters and outreach programs across Toronto while over one million bottles of water have been donated through Project Water.

Besides the obvious philanthropic reasons to give, “people also want to do business with people who do good — giving back makes great business sense.” As a prolific public speaker, Steinhauer believes it is everyone’s business to give.

She also challenges the industry to do more and be more creative in their charity giving. “It’s a win-win situation that doesn’t require a lot of effort,” she adds.

In an industry of motivation, incentives and gratitude, PPPC charity givers say there is no bigger reward than giving to those who need it the most. It’s what we’re all about after all.