For many in Louisiana, life is hard. And that’s not even taking into account the recession. Hunger is great, with 800,000 people in poverty.
Jumping into the breach, late in 2007, Suddenlink’s Alexandria system, led by field service manager Tony Cifelli, launched Connecting to Those in Need, a campaign to help stock the Food Bank of Louisiana’s larder. Recovering itself from floods that forced a system rebuild, Suddenlink’s 2007 initiative and another effort late last year led to a stockpile of 24,000 pounds of food for the Bank.
How did they do it? Some traditional methods and a few creative ways. Initially, the drive was helped by a televised kickoff program. There were also DJ endorsements and PSAs. A press effort resulted in print and broadcast stories. Then there were the food drop-off points at Suddenlink’s office, at city halls and grocery stores. Suddenlink techs, making service calls, also accepted donations of food. And there were drawings for high-tech entertainment gear. You donate food, you get a chance to win a prize.
This is community service that puts food on the table — it doesn’t get much more direct-to-consumer than that.
"Tony recognized a great need in the community for a year-round program to supply food for the Food Bank and its agencies and food pantries," says Maryce J. Cunningham, manager, government & community relations, Suddenlink. "His enthusiasm helped engage nearly all of his fellow employees in the campaign." And the payoff works two ways. First, the employees are doing good. Second, as Cunningham says, "Our system in Alexandria is top-rated…for overall customer satisfaction. Our surveys suggest that the local team’s support of the Food Bank is a major contributing factor."
The program has been extended into 2009, supporting Republican Rep. Rodney Alexander’s spring "Can Share" food drive in Central Louisiana schools. And plans are under way to extend the fall drive to additional Cenla communities.
With the program well into its third year, Suddenlink’s Cunningham offers some best practices for operators looking to invest in their communities: Identify a need that is not being addressed and lines up with local employees’ interests; team up with a community agency or nonprofit that can engage with the program and is welcoming of corporate support; and engage elected officials and other community leaders.
95% of area Suddenlink employees supported the "Connecting to Those in Need" campaign.
Food Bank of La. named Suddenlink Corporate Partner of the Year in 2008 and 2009.
Tony Cifelli won the 2008 Louisiana Cable & Telecommunications Association President’s Award for extraordinary contributions to a system and/or community.