Sarah Ford | February 22, 2016

The Power of Employee Giving and Communities Working Together When Natural Disasters Strike

Just one week after community organizations, including the EPA and White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships, joined together through a day of national service and volunteering to honor the legacy of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Winter Storm Jonas pounded the East Coast with historic snow records and as a result, Tae Min found himself spending the night at Miriam’s Kitchen.

Housed in the basement of Western Presbyterian Church, America’s Charities member Miriam’s Kitchen is a nonprofit working to end chronic (long-term) homelessness in our nation’s capital.  This year, among other support programs, Miriam’s Kitchen will provide 70,000 healthy meals and high-quality social services to an estimated 4,000 homeless individuals.

Tae isn’t homeless though.  He is a Miriam’s Kitchen chef who wanted to ensure the nonprofit would be open for business as usual – even when the rest of the city would be completely shut down for days.  

Joining Tae in his dedication to keeping Miriam’s Kitchen open in the middle of the blizzard was a case manager who also spent the night, two employees who walked to work to make sure they’d be there by their 6:15am start time, and Senior Case Manager, Emily, who even helped save a life during the storm after acting on a tip from a guest in Miriam’s Kitchen’s dining room. After hearing about a man sitting under a bridge outside in the blizzard, Emily went to check out the situation and discovered a man, unable to move because his two prosthetic legs were frozen solid in the snow.  In addition to bringing the man some food, Emily called for emergency medical care and stayed with him until the EMS team took him to the local hospital – not by ambulance but on a sled (yeah – the weather conditions were that horrendous).

During its entire 33 years of operations, Miriam’s Kitchen has never had any interruptions in providing services.

Two things have contributed to this accomplishment:

  1. Passionate and engaged employees
  2. Community support

Aligning Community Support with Nonprofit Needs

When natural disasters and inclement weather like Winter Storm Jonas shut down entire cities, an outpouring of support in the form of financial donations and disaster relief supply drives from people far and wide never fails to follow.

That type of community support plays an integral role in helping organizations like Miriam’s Kitchen fulfill their mission, but there is another vital component that is often overlooked: existing, sustainable support from donors and community partners.

Having dedicated employees is a key part of Miriam’s Kitchen’s success, but those employees wouldn’t be able to accomplish their work without reliable access to essential resources like food to serve their guests, or things like heat, electricity, and shelter which they need in order to operate. That’s where sustainable, unrestricted funds from workplace giving programs and support from strategic partners play a tremendous role.

Employee giving and strategic partnerships empower nonprofits to have an immediate, effective, and lasting response.  Resources that flow-in after a disaster strikes strengthen that response, as long as those resources match the nonprofits’ needs.

What nonprofits need most, especially when it comes to disaster relief, are cash donations and large quantities of needed, organized goods. Often (despite their best intentions), in-kind support donated by individuals does not align with the actual needs of the nonprofit and those they’re helping. For example, donors might run to their closet and send a bag full of clothing when really what the nonprofit needs are sleeping bags, shrink-wrapped pallets of bottled water, and fresh food. Through strategic partnerships with nonprofits, businesses serve as a key solution to this disconnect.  And according to companies surveyed in America’s Charities Snapshot 2015 Report, 70 percent strongly agree that employees expect them to be a socially responsible company, which includes providing opportunities for employees to connect with causes they care about. For instance, whereas a strategic partnership with the community farmers’ market or grocery store, serves as a natural fit and reliable source for a nonprofit to access fresh ingredients and food donations they need (when they need it), cash donations made through an employer-sponsored disaster relief campaign will help fill the needs gap by providing the nonprofit with money to purchase necessary items like shrink-wrapped pallets of bottled water or sleeping bags.  By empowering employees to support the community through organized workplace giving and disaster relief campaigns, and forming strategic partnerships with nonprofits based on their needs and in-kind support your company naturally has to offer, businesses are an indispensable conduit for providing nonprofits much-needed resources – in times of crises AND all year-long. 

Workplace Giving and Disaster Relief

Miriam’s Kitchen is an essential resource for the DC community and a prime example of the power of individuals and communities working together to make an impact.

America’s Charities is proud to provide employers and their employees multiple ways to provide such support to nonprofits like Miriam’s Kitchen. Through America’s Charities’ employee giving solutions, charitable funds management, and strategic consulting services, we facilitate sustainable giving through workplace giving campaigns, volunteer opportunities, and disaster relief programs. Whether you share Miriam’s Kitchen’s passion for ending chronic homelessness, or have another cause you would like to support, America’s Charities can help you turn that passion into action.

To learn more about Miriam’s Kitchen, along with additional ways to take action and support their work, visit their website at

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