Seventy third-graders at Hawthorne Elementary School in Sioux Falls were at risk of missing out on a field trip to the Washington Pavilion last spring. Many couldn’t come up with the $2.50 they each needed for the outing.
By chance, an SDN Communications representative heard about the funding problem from a teacher, and employees came to the rescue.
An email request brought in $780 in contributions, which was more than enough to fund the field trip. The school used the extra money to buy books for students to read during the summer months. SDN’s employees also provided the students with several bags of gently used spring jackets so they could still go outside for recess on the chilly days.
The funding request went out through a special “Jeans Day” program where employees can buy a sticker for $5 and wear jeans to work. However, a lot of employees just gave money without taking a sticker.
Helping the school kids was an easy sell, says Vernon Brown, vice president of marketing and community relations at SDN.
“We’re always humbled by how often SDN employees step up when there’s a dire need, whether it’s something organized like the United Way or something impromptu, like when students at Hawthorne couldn’t afford a field trip,” he says. “When there’s a call for help, they pitch in.”
Although SDN only has about 160 full- and part-time employees, the company and its workers consistently come up big in helping the community.
In July, for example, SDN donated an unneeded company truck to Feeding South Dakota. Employees decided the company couldn’t just give away an empty truck, however, says Abby Vostad, an executive assistant at SDN. They figured it should be filled with food, too.
So, employees contributed $500 and, with the help and cooperation of the nearby Hy-Vee grocery, the money was converted into $1,300 worth of food.
More recently, SDN employees raised $270 and school supplies to support The Banquet’s annual Project SOS (Supply Our Students). Each year, thousands of backpacks filled with school supplies are given to children to help them succeed.
SDN is also a significant contributor to civic programs such as the Sioux Empire United Way. Employees who give at a Heart Club level (at least $250 annually) get an extra day off work each year at the company’s expense.
In addition, SDN gives employees five paid hours a year to do volunteer work for a nonprofit organization.
The SDN IT Games are recent example of how the company blends civic outreach into other employee activities. Three nonprofit organizations were designated to benefit from some light-hearted, office-oriented games organized by SDN:
- Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota
- Children’s Home Society of South Dakota
- Washington Pavilion of Arts and Science
In the IT Games, employees from several companies competed in events such as seeing how many pieces of crumpled-up paper they could toss into a trash can. The winner in each of three games got to select where to make a $500 contribution.
SDN also encourages employees to be involved in civic organizations. The company’s emphasis on civic outreach is a corporate priority that has the strong support of CEO Mark Shlanta, who recently co-chaired a Forward Sioux Falls funding campaign that raised $15.5 million for economic development efforts in Sioux Falls.
Despite its specialized, high-tech niche as the leading regional supplier of broadband connectivity and cybersecurity services for businesses and institutions, SDN enjoys a positive reputation among companies, organizations and civic groups. Employee contributions of time and money are big part of that.
“SDN is known for the generosity of its employees, and that’s a pretty cool thing to be known for,” Vostad says. “There are a lot of needs in the community, and it’s nice to be able to meet some of them.”