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May 02, 2016 • By

How we connect with our communities

Our employees are easy to spot when they’re out giving back in their communities as a group. Their bright yellow shirts give them away every time as they make a difference, together.

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The impact of group activities, like the dozens planned around the world in April for our annual “Think Global, Volunteer Local” initiative, is big.

Just ask Youth Farm in Minneapolis.

“We depend on volunteers from General Mills to come out and plant everything in the spring. Volunteers make all this possible. Without them, I don’t think we’d be able to do what we do,” says Phil Rooney, with Youth Farm. “The work is so big, it wouldn’t make sense for our staff to be out here.”

Youth Farm has 15 gardens across Minneapolis and St. Paul. Their program allows youth and young adults to tend the gardens then harvest the food for community dinners and their families.

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On a sunny Earth Day, on April 22, I watched a dozen employees prepare one of Youth Farm’s gardens, to plant peas, broccoli and more.

“Over the years we’ve been able to grow thousands of pounds more food through the contributions of these volunteers,” says Rooney.

PRISM, in Golden Valley, Minnesota (a few minutes from our headquarters) also had employees from General Mills under their roof last month.

“It’s just such a resource in our community to have larger corporations around who prioritize employee volunteering,” says Eleanor Trenary, the community engagement manager at PRISM. “We’re really grateful to have good neighbors.”

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PRISM provides assistance with food, clothing, and housing to people in several Minneapolis suburbs. They require 500 volunteers every year.

A group of our employees spent some time in PRISM’s food shelf, helping sort items for distribution. The events last month at PRISM, Youth Farm and many more, were coordinated with HandsOn Twin Cities. Once again showing that volunteerism is important at General Mills, through TGVL.

We went bigger than usual this year, worldwide, as part of a push for our 150th anniversary.

From gardens to food shelves and riverfront cleanups to homeless shelters, we had some 2,000 employees out in their yellow shirts.

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“It’s a tradition,” says Donna Svendsen, associate director of the General Mills Foundation. “TGVL has really taken off. It’s helped us to globalize the work that we do and it’s been amazing to see how teams around the world step up and go out to do what’s needed.” literally stand up and go out and do what’s needed.”

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TGVL is in its seventh year at General Mills and celebrates and highlights the Foundation’s global focus on food secure communities and sustainable agriculture.

But Donna says volunteerism is important all year in many different ways.

“We celebrate volunteerism in April,” Donna says. “But the reality is that each and every day our employees are out there doing good works.” (Audio)

Globally, she estimates 76 percent of our employees volunteer every year, either on their own or for projects coordinated through General Mills. In the U.S., it’s about 83 percent.

Donna’s team tracks employees who volunteer in a variety of ways (skills-based projects, coaching, etc …), including many who serve in leadership positions on non-profit boards (15 percent of our employees).

She says it’s important for General Mills to make volunteerism a priority with current employees, but also when communicating with prospective employees.

“People are coming to our company expecting that they are going to be engaged, expecting that they’re going to be able to use their skills in the community to volunteer,” says Donna. “Frankly, that’s a recruiting tool. But that’s also a good retention tool as well.”

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I talked with a couple of employees at the PRISM project. Jensine Raine, who started with us in December in finance sourcing, says the company’s community-minded work was a factor in her decision to apply.

“This type of activity is near and dear to my heart and was one of the reasons why I wanted to come to General Mills because we value volunteering and this type of work,” says Jensine. “It’s super easy to get involved.”

Wayne Walker, a finance director, has been with us for nearly 25 years and makes sure to continue to participate in volunteer projects.

“Part of our company’s philosophy is to give back to the community, wherever you’re involved,” Wayne says, “It fits with the culture of the company and it fits with my personal values as well.”

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Editor’s note: Learn more, including about our efforts in skills-based volunteerism and projects involving company retirees, in “General Mills Leverages Skills-Based Volunteerism Across the Globe.”

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