Giving Back in a Pandemic Year

How the business community came through in 2020

Space Camp students on Team Boeing prepare for their roles as pilot and commander for a simulated mission to the moon. Photo courtesy of U.S. Space & Rocket Center

In July, the call went out: the U.S. Space & Rocket Center (USSRC) in Huntsville and its internationally beloved Space Camp program were in jeopardy of closing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Center was launching a “Save Space Camp” campaign. The goal was to raise a minimum of $1.5 million, enough to keep the USSRC museum open through October and reopen Space Camp in April 2021.

The Rocket Center closed its doors in mid-March following state health orders designed to mitigate the spread of coronavirus. The museum reopened in late May with significantly reduced attendance. At that time, the USSRC had laid off one-third of its full-time employees and most of its remaining full-time employees had been furloughed since April. When Space Camp reopened on June 28 it had only 20% of its normal attendance and the Center was unable to hire 700 part-time employees who typically work at Space Camp and the museum.

Just three days after announcing the “Save Space Camp” campaign, the Center had received $600,000 from more than 6,000 individuals and organizations around the world. Boeing, a longtime supporter of the USSRC, contributed an additional $500,000 leadership gift. 

“Boeing has operated in Alabama for more than 55 years, and our strength comes from being active members of the communities in which we live and work,” says Cheri Carter, vice president of Boeing Global Engagement. “The U.S. Space & Rocket Center is an integral part of the Huntsville community, and through its Space Camp program, has sparked a lifetime interest in STEM for generations of students — many of whom later joined our company. 

Team Boeing celebrates the successful Guinness World Record model rocket launch at Space Camp in July 2019. Photo courtesy of U.S. Space & Rocket Center

We’re committed to supporting the Center through the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond so that future STEM students can benefit from the Space Camp experience.”

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In early August, SAIC made a $250,000 gift to the campaign that put it ahead of its
original $1.5 million goal just one week after launching it. Later that month, Northrop Grumman and the Northrop Grumman Foundation further assisted the campaign with a donation to help sustain operations and repair financial damage caused by the Center’s shutdown and reduced attendance.  

More than 8,600 individuals and companies from 40 countries and all 50 states contributed to the Save Space Camp campaign.

The ongoing challenges presented by the coronavirus have had a devastating impact on much of the nonprofit sector. This year, even more than most, Alabama businesses have stepped up and found ways to support nonprofits and charities in their communities.

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing
In August, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) donated $5,000 worth of school supplies and 5,000 disposable face masks to Montgomery Public School (MPS) System students. This is HMMA’s 15th year holding a school supply drive, but this year was a little different. Since 2011, HMMA has held a “Pack a Backpack” drive during which employees would fill backpacks purchased by HMMA with school supplies. This year, due to COVID-19, HMMA elected to purchase supplies directly and sent them to the MPS social services department, who oversaw distribution.

Hyundai made a donation to Montgomery schools. Photo courtesy of Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama

In August, Raytheon Technologies awarded a $4 million grant to the Huntsville-based Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering (ASCTE). The newly formed ASCTE is Alabama’s only fully public, residential high school for students seeking advanced engineering and cyber technology studies. Tuition and housing for ASTE students are free. The school opened in August with 71 students from across the state who, for now, are meeting in the former Oakwood Academy building at Oakwood University. Raytheon’s donation supports funding for campus construction now in progress at Cummings Research Park in Huntsville.

Regions Bank
In September, the Regions Foundation, a nonprofit initiative of Regions Bank, awarded a series of grants totaling $150,000 for organizations providing relief in the wake of Hurricane Sally. The support included $50,000 provided to United Way of Southwest Alabama to be split equally between its partner agencies, the Salvation Army of Coastal Alabama and Feeding the Gulf Coast. An additional $50,000 went to United Way of Baldwin County in support of the Hurricane Sally Disaster Relief Fund. In August, Regions Bank announced a $75,000 grant for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The institute is seeking to raise $750,000 by the end of 2020 to support its education, research and other operations.

AT&T made a $100,000 donation to the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund to aid communities that were impacted by Hurricane Sally. The company also activated its Text to Give feature, allowing customers to make $10 donations to the American Red Cross in support of communities in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida affected by the hurricane.

In September, the company announced a $300,000 contribution to Birmingham Promise, an organization that provides scholarships and apprentice opportunities to Birmingham City Schools students.

Mazda Foundation
In October, the Mazda Foundation awarded $215,000 in grants to nine food banks across the country, including $50,000 allocated for the Food Bank of North Alabama (FBNA). The funds will allow FBNA to serve 350,000 meals to residents across North Alabama. In total, the Mazda Foundation has provided $94,000 to the FBNA this year in response to the unprecedented demand for food caused by the economic impact of COVID-19.

In honor of National Literacy Month in September, Dynetics donated $25,000 in charitable gifts to the Huntsville Library Foundation (HLF) and the Boys and Girls Club of North Alabama (BGCNAL). The donation, made possible through Dynetics Does, the company’s community outreach initiative, will support the HLF’s Launchpad to Literacy Fund, created to meet the increased demand for children’s print books as more and more children are learning at home during the pandemic, and the BGCNAL’s newly-introduced Club Academy, a partnership with local school districts that provides safe, in-person classroom programs at local clubs for those who need all-day learning options.

For National Coloring Book Day on Aug. 2, Dynetics created an Aviation Activity Book that includes coloring pages, mazes, word scrambles and other activities designed to engage children with aviation history and some of the new technologies being developed in the region. Dynetics donated more than 500 activity books.

In partnership with the Community Foundation of West Alabama, Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc. has donated $100,000 to assist with COVID-19 relief efforts. Recipients include United Way of West Alabama, Temporary Emergency Services of West Alabama, West Alabama Food Bank, Community Service Programs of West Alabama, American Red Cross, American Red Cross West Alabama Chapter, Tuscaloosa City Schools and Tuscaloosa County Schools. 

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