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NINETY EIGHT REGENCY

Ford staff gives back

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Ford staff gives back

Worldwide volunteer total about same as in 2009

BY BRENT SNAVELY

FREE PRESS BUSINESS WRITER

About a half-dozen Ford employees tried to avoid poison ivy and rattlesnakes Friday at Matthaei Botanical Gardens in Ann Arbor as they repaired a bridge along a nature trail.

The workers were among 750 Ford employees who volunteered at community improvement projects across southeast Michigan as part of the automaker's annual Global Week of Caring.

This week, about 8,000 Ford workers participated in volunteer projects in 26 countries and 15 U.S. states. About 35 of the projects took place Friday in southeast Michigan.

Locations included Matthaei Botanical Gardens, Maybury Farm in Northville where workers installed a fence and the Advanced Technology Academy in Dearborn, where workers built a greenhouse.

Many of the organizations also received mini-grants of about $5,000 each, said Jim Vella, president of the Ford Motor Company Fund.

"It really is kind of a grassroots effort to help with projects and communities where Ford has a presence," Vella said.

David Williamson of Canton said he picked the project at Matthaei because he didn't want to be indoors.

"It's just great to get outdoors and just enjoy the weather that nature provides in Michigan in the fall," said Williamson, a fuel-system engineer for Ford.

Last year, total combined corporate giving from Ford and the Ford Motor Company Fund was $29.3 million. It's expected to be about $30 million again this year.

But next year, Vella said, he expects total giving will be closer to $40 million.

"We are having a better year financially, and our ability to give is based on the support we get from the company, so as things get better, we are going to expand," Vella said.

Ford earned a profit of $4.7 billion for the first half of this year, and analysts say they expect the company will earn about $6 billion for the full year.

But while corporate giving has taken a hit, the total hours of community work from employees has remained steady, Vella said.

This year, Vella said about 20,000 of Ford's employees are on track to contribute about 100,000 hours of community service worldwide, or about the same total as in 2009. Vella estimates that the value of that work, based on a rate of $20 per hour, would be $2 million.

At Matthaei on Friday, workers were using crowbars to pull up old, rotted boards on a bridge along a nature trail and rebuild the bridge.

"The area that we just walked through is our wildflower prairie, and that is a pretty popular spot for rattlesnakes, so you might get to see one," Jeff Walters, the facilities director for Matthaei, told the Ford volunteers before they started working.

Tara Griffith, volunteer coordinator for Matthaei, said Ford employees typically volunteer for at least two projects per month, making the automaker the largest corporate supporter for volunteer efforts.

Ford employees are allowed to take paid time off work for up to 16 hours of community service per year.

Last year, Griffith said 137 Ford volunteers contributed 822 hours of service at Matthaei.

"When we get a Ford crew, we get a whole-day project done," Griffith said.

Read more: Ford staff gives back | freep.com | Detroit Free Press http://www.freep.com/article/20100911/BUSINESS01/9110363/1331/Business01/Ford-staff-gives-back#ixzz0zQGGpdth

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