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Aug 17, 2016 • By

Grants surprise communities around the world

Amy Vaughn, director of Kids in Motion (KIM) in Hannibal, Missouri, wanted to launch a new program this fall.

She didn’t know exactly how she was going to find the money to do it, but she had faith that the money would come.

And then one day in June she got a surprise when a group of General Mills employees from our Hannibal plant showed up to present her with a giant $20,000 check.

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She was floored.

The surprise grant to KIM was part of the General Mills year-long 150th anniversary celebration.

This video compilation documenting many of the 70 surprise moments arranged by the General Mills Foundation, including Vaughn’s moment, brings to life how our employees  worldwide came together to help improve lives in their communities. (See the KIM check presentation at the 6:20 mark)

The 150th anniversary grant program reinforced General Mills’ commitment to its communities. Employees at U.S. and international locations were invited to nominate deserving nonprofits, providing a truly personal way for them to give back to the communities where they live and work.

Five employees at our Hannibal plant nominated KIM, a program which teaches work ethic and responsibility to youths.

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“I chose them as a nominee because they are a charity that was developed locally and keeps the money in the community which I am a part of,” says Lucas Judlowe, a system engineer in our Soup division. “I had the opportunity to work with KIM and Amy when we performed a stream cleanup. This was nothing short of an inspiring experience, as the kids were respectful, engaged, and a joy to work with. That inspired me to want to ensure that KIM continued its progress and mission.”

The surprise grant isn’t the first time General Mills has made a significant contribution to the Hannibal organization.

“The first funding ever for this program came from General Mills in 1996 in the form of a $5,000 grant,” says Vaughn. “They believed in us before we were even in existence, and they continue to believe in us today, which is absolutely amazing. General Mills has also been an incredible supporter in regard to volunteers who help with our program and serve on our advisory board.”

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General Mills employees in Shanghai awarded several surprise grants in their community, including the Shanghai Rende Foundation.

The 150th anniversary surprise grants were delivered in a pop-up surprise style to charities around the world.

“Our employees are the heartbeat of our company,” says Mary Jane Melendez, executive director of the General Mills Foundation. “They connect us to our communities and help uncover key challenges, inviting us to share in the remarkable work that so many organizations are doing around the world. For this reason, strengthening our hometown communities continues to be a critical part of our work.”

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Employees from the Bentonville, Arkansas, sales office pose with BuzzBee at a surprise event planned for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Arkoma.

Earlier this year, our Foundation announced a significant strategic shift in the company’s philanthropy by centering charitable giving on two new global focus areas: food secure communities and sustainable agriculture.

Although these new focus areas are targets for future Foundation spending, it was important that employee choice play a role in the 150th anniversary grants program, according to Mary Jane.

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General Mills India employees planned a joint celebration for the three NGOs receiving 150th anniversary surprise grants. The recipient organizations were BAIF Development Research Foundation, United Way Mumbai and TATA Trust.

Hundreds of nonprofits and non-governmental organizations were nominated globally, and 70 were chosen to receive the $20,000, one-time commemorative grant award.

A notable variety of nonprofit causes and societal issues were addressed. Employees selected organizations ranging from youth development and education, to hunger alleviation, animal welfare, and emergency shelters.

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The Buffalo plant team surprised Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Eric County with a $20,000 donation to support continued programming for youth in the community.

It’s evident through this program that our employees play an important role in the company’s philanthropy.

“It was an honor to celebrate our 150th anniversary by engaging our employees and letting their voices be heard as they took the grant-making experience into their own hands,” Mary Jane says.

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After a Twin Cities-wide employee vote, Helping Paws was recognized as one of five local winners of the 150th anniversary surprise grants. This organization furthers people’s independence and quality of life through the use of assistance dogs.

And it appears that employees received just as much happiness from presenting the grants as the community organizations that received them.

“It was a really great experience,” says Lucas.  “It was wonderful to see Amy’s face and see her kind of tear up. It felt good. It’s nice to give back to your community. It’s a great moment of fulfillment.”

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