Making preparedness a mission

December 11, 2011

Who: Jan Tratnik, spokesperson.

Company: Grainger Industrial Supply, supplier of maintenance, repair and operating products.

Charitable giving highlights: Since 2008, Grainger has given $275,000 in donations, scholarships and employee matching gifts to the Washington region.

Tell me about the company’s philanthropy.

We partner with two major organizations headquartered in Washington — American Red Cross and the American Association of Community Colleges.

What are the areas of focus?

Emergency preparedness and disaster relief, and technical education.

What programs are within that focus?

Ten years ago we became involved with the first corporate-based disaster relief program in Chicago to pre-screen and pre-train their employees for volunteers for the Red Cross. We started as a small volunteer effort there, and it was so successful that our leadership wanted to make it a national program called Ready When the Time Comes. In the Washington area, it has 400 trained volunteers with 20 businesses.

For technical education, we realized the future workforce of our customers consists of technical and trade jobs. We started funding scholarships for associate degrees in the technical area. To date we’ve invested more than $1 million in this program and awarded close to 400 scholarships.

What do you look for in a nonprofit partner?

We look at an organization of shared values, the same local presence that we have and organizations that are serving diverse communities.

Do you find that the philanthropy yields any business results?

Our business or customers’ businesses can’t thrive if the community isn’t viable. When we see the payback of our investment, in terms of how that impacts the health of our business, it’s through the economic viability of the communities where we operate.

— Interview with Vanessa Small

smallv@
washpost.com

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