In Perspective - Giving Back

Thu, 11/03/2011 - 11:57pm
Brian Santo

A salute to those industry folks who give back.

People in the cable industry have a laudable record of charity and volunteerism, from donating to local food banks; to raising money for and helping to physically rebuild parts of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina; and much, much more.

Brian SantoAny gain any of us achieves can be wiped out at any moment by illness, natural disaster, economic hardship or any of a number of other misfortunes. It can be hard for those of us not beset to take a moment, glance away from the bottom line, and recognize that there are others in need and that we have the means to help. Yet people in the cable industry consistently do so.

No less important than alleviating suffering is providing opportunity or offering role models or guidance. The people in this industry do plenty of that, too.

This column acknowledges those who give back - those who donate their money, their time, their skills. We lack the space to mention every act of kindness and charity from just the past year alone; let these examples stand for the rest.


After hurricanes hit Alabama earlier this year, Bright House Networks (BHN) and several sister companies donated $1 million to the American Red Cross for disaster relief efforts through the Samuel I. Newhouse Foundation.

In the wake of natural disasters, the employees of service providers frequently work twice as hard to restore service to others. Often, many of those same employees were affected themselves by the disasters they're responding to. BHN, as many of its peers do in similar situations, set up an assistance fund for its employees in Alabama that needed help. Meanwhile, BHN employees from the other five states that the company serves collected their own contributions for fellow employees in need.


Amdocs encourages its employees to "support the well-being and enhance the educational opportunities of children-at-risk in the communities that we call home." To that end, the company has local teams that often work in tandem with Amdocs customers.

An example of that is when the Amdocs Cablevision Account Community Relations Team held an event earlier this year at the Hempstead Girls and Boys Club. The club caters to children who do not have afterschool care available, and it also runs summer programs. The same team later held a Pizza, Pajama and Books Party at Fulton Elementary School in Hempstead. "We started off with some dancing and quickly learned that the kids are much better dancers than the grownups," one of the organizers reported.


It's sometimes hard for individuals to get noticed for their contributions. Modesty and a lack of a public relations firm on retainer sometimes get in the way. We're lucky (in more ways than one) to count Leslie Ellis among our friends. A former colleague of ours at CED, Leslie has raised $40,000 running marathons for the Rocky Mountain Children's Law Center, and she regularly participates in the annual 40-mile Rocky Mountain Avon Breast Cancer Walk. Also worthy of recognition for their generosity are Leslie’s sponsors for these events.

Boys & Girls Club Mass.

Cox Charities operates in many of the different communities the company serves, supporting organizations such as Boys & Girls Clubs, the Urban League and many others. The branches of the organization - in New Orleans, Phoenix, Rhode Island and other locations - are all highly local. The organization in the Hampton Roads and Roanoke, Va., service areas, for example, last year awarded nearly $200,000 in grants to local non-profit organizations in those two communities. This year, that branch is expanding operations to include communities in northern Virginia.


In 2010, the Verizon Foundation awarded nearly $67 million to nonprofit organizations throughout the U.S., with the majority of the funds going to organizations that support education, domestic violence prevention and Internet safety. This year, among other activities, the Foundation donated $80,000 to the Salvation Army and other organizations that provided relief to those affected by the rash of tornados in the southeastern U.S. Earlier, the foundation raised more than $800,000 in donations to support earthquake/tsunami relief in Japan. In both instances, the Verizon Foundation matched donations made by Verizon employees.


Communities all up and down the eastern seaboard were lashed by Hurricane Irene earlier this year. Damages included some of the worst flooding in the Northeast in decades. Time Warner Cable donated $25,000 in cash and $25,000 in local media to support the American Red Cross recovery efforts in New York State following the hurricane. As many other service providers do in such emergencies, TWC set up toll-free numbers and a special text address that viewers could call to make donations.


The Women Orthopaedist Global Outreach (WOGO) is a group of surgeons who annually take a team of about 65 people - all volunteers - to another country to perform joint replacement surgery for patients who otherwise would have little chance of receiving such attention. Shawn Tylka, a field marketing manager at Cisco, is the social media expert for the organization. She writes: "Between trips, I write blogs about volunteering and what the team is doing to prepare for the trip. During the trip, I travel with the team to take photos and video, write blogs, and keep the Twitter and Facebook pages up-to-date. I also perform any duties needed - I've worked as a volunteer in pre-op, post-op in warehouse, break room duty, transported patients and supported patient screening. It's an extremely fulfilling experience."


In 2010, Genband declared June 1 to be Genband Day, a day when the company's employees all have the option of volunteering their time. The company calculates that last June, Genband employees logged somewhere around 5,000 hours of service with more than 50 different non-profit organizations all over the globe, including Habitat for Humanity, American Red Cross, Ronald McDonald House Charities, Boys & Girls Clubs, the Ottawa Food Bank, Crossroads Village (a Hong Kong-based organization that assists the needy), and La Alegria en el Senor (a center in Peru that assists in the rehabilitation of children with psychological and physical disabilities).


The Walter Kaitz Foundation is well known for providing grants to organizations that promote the participation of women and minorities in the executive ranks of the cable industry, working with the Emma L. Bowen Foundation, Women in Cable Telecommunications (WICT) and the National Association for Multi-Ethnicity in Communications (NAMIC). The foundation holds an annual fundraising dinner that in recent years has brought in as much as $1 million. Corporate partners are spread throughout the entire industry. They include ABC, MTV Networks, Scripps Networks, Lifetime Entertainment Services, Comcast, Cox Communications, Cablevision Systems, Time Warner Cable, Amdocs, Arris, CommScope and Vozzcom.


In the last 5 years, the SCTE Foundation has given away nearly $350,000 in educational grants and major grants to more than 125 SCTE members. "Imagine: For the $68 SCTE membership dues, a new member is instantly eligible to receive up to $3,000 in educational grant support per year. Members with more than a year in good standing can receive up to $7,500 a year. Now that's pretty awesome, don't you think?" writes foundation board member Bob Gold. Individual SCTE chapters are frequently involved in community service. The chapter I belong to, the Cascade Range Chapter, worked with the local WICT Chapter to support the Oregon Food Bank. The 48 volunteers who participated packed 15,374 pounds of food, the rough equivalent of 11,826 meals (or 246 meals per volunteer).


Derek Baine, a senior consultant at SNL Kagan (and another former colleague), has been raising money to support efforts to find a cure for Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia. Participating in events such as the Walk to End Alzheimer's (in Monterey, Calif.), Derek at press time was close to achieving a personal goal of collecting $22,000, which includes support from friends, family, Kagan clients and a $10,000 donation from SNL Cares.

Genband Employees

Comcast held its 10th-annual "Comcast Cares Day" on April 30. The company estimates that more than 62,000 employees across the country participated at hundreds of sites. Comcast volunteers worked at Boys & Girls Clubs, Decatur Place (transitional housing), the Denver Children's Advocacy Center and Horizons Specialized Services (providing services to persons with developmental disabilities). Others participated in plantings and cleanups at Bluff Lake Nature Center, Cheyenne Canon and Eagle River. And that's only a partial list of what went on just in Denver. The company estimates that over the years, it has supported more than 3,000 different organizations in more than 2,000 communities in which it has operations. The Comcast Foundation, meanwhile, has been offering grants and donations since 1999 - more than $90 million at the last tally. At the same time, Comcast employees collect tens of thousands of dollars every year for charities. Organizations that have benefitted from the largesse of the Comcast Foundation and Comcast employees include United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters, City Year and One Economy.


For years, the Rocky Mountain Chapter of CTAM has supported the U.S. Adaptive Ski Team with an event long known as SkiTAM, but recently renamed Adaptive Spirit. The program, which supports skiers with physical disabilities with races and an accompanying silent auction, generates more than half of the Adaptive Ski Team's annual budget. This is yet another endeavor that meets greater success due to the generosity of a large group of sponsors.


Following the earthquake and subsequent tsunami in Japan, AT&T, Verizon Wireless, Sprint, T-Mobile USA and a number of smaller wireless operators all enabled their customers to send mobile donations without being charged for the text messages. AT&T, for one, offered its postpaid wireless customers free long-distance calls from the United States and Puerto Rico to Japan in the immediate aftermath of the disaster. Different carriers supported the making of donations to a range of relief agencies, including the American Red Cross, The Salvation Army, Mercy Corps and the Save the Children Federation.


On Nov. 6, BlackArrow CEO Nick Troiano will be running the New York City Marathon, raising money for Team Continuum, an organization that helps cancer patients and their families minimize disruptions and hardships of everyday life so that they can focus on medical care. Troiano said he's running to honor a friend, Jose Royo, former CEO of Ascent Media, who died on May 18, 2010, at the age of 44. The two men met in 1999 when Royo was running Ascent Media's digital group. Troiano writes: "If you have ever noticed the white band that I wear on my right wrist, it is in memory of Jose. I've had it on since his memorial service. On it is inscribed: 'Can do. Will do. Won't Quit.' It was Jose's well-known mantra amongst his friends and colleagues, and it is a belief and faith that I try to follow every day."

This month’s In Perspective is modeled after an annual column written by Jack Robertson, long an editor with Electronic News. A superb newsman and an all-around good guy, Robertson was a role model for several generations of journalists, I among them. Jack died late last year at age 78. This column is dedicated to his memory.



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