Employees at a meat-packing plant south of Plainwell held an employee auction to raise more than $1,000 to brighten holiday spirits for children and their families at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Kalamazoo.
Their employer, JBS USA, one of the Kalamazoo area's largest private employers, has made a gift as well — a $1 million donation to the Boys & Girls Clubs’ Their Future Is In Your Hands
capital campaign to build a new flagship building on Portage Street.
“This just deepens our relationship with a community partner that is making a huge difference in the lives of children and families," says John Beasley, plant manager at JBS. "And, quite frankly,” he adds, “we view this corporate Hometown Strong gift that made this possible as a vote of confidence in our workers in Southwest Michigan."
The $1 million gift, part of the JBS Hometown Strong program, pushes Boys & Girls Clubs close to its $9 million goal to build a facility that will replace what was the Lake Street unit and headquarters in Kalamazoo. Those headquarters were attached to the Edison Environmental Science Academy, which is being rebuilt exclusively for Kalamazoo Public Schools.
Boys & Girls Clubs serves 1,300 children ages 5 to 19 year-around at their four units, where the clubs offer life-enriching, skill-building programs free of charge.
“The gift is an incredibly special one in that it takes us within $50,000 of our $9 million campaign goal,” says Matt Lynn, Boys & Girls Clubs CEO.
“It was a pleasant surprise more than a year ago to find JBS interested in our Clubs,” Lynn says. “JBS is just over the Allegan County border, but nearly 80 percent of the employees there live in Kalamazoo County.”
Beasley grew up in Colorado and was familiar with Boys & Girls Clubs there, and he and members of his team made it a point to deepen the relationship.
“John championed our cause with the company headquarters, tapping into their Hometown Strong fund,” Lynn says. “We now have seven-figure donations from four sources: The Stryker Johnston Foundation; Larry Bell; one anonymous donor source; and JBS USA. This has been a classic campaign
, led by a tremendous, dedicated group of community volunteers.”
Lynn says everyone associated with this campaign knew that a $9 million goal was considered very ambitious, “and more than a few folks called it a stretch goal. That we’ve come so close is a tribute to the cause, the campaign leadership, and the incredible generosity of so many in the greater Kalamazoo community who believe in the work and the impact of Boys & Girls Clubs.”
"Boys & Girls Clubs launched its $9 million Their Future is in Your Hands
campaign during the heart of the Covid 19 pandemic. Construction of the new 30,000-square-foot building is scheduled to begin next spring at 847 Portage, across the street from the Clubs’ original site, which opened almost 70 years ago.
The new club facility will feature space for programs and services that include computer work, arts and media activities, health and wellness, quiet study space, games and sports space, science exploration and teen activities, and more.
"This amazing contribution from JBS USA is an incredible gift to our community and we are so grateful for the world of difference this investment will make in our ability to impact the lives of young people," Lynn says. "As we approach our $9 million goal, we hope this inspires others to see the value of both this project for our community and expansion of the impact work of this organization for generations to come."
JBS Foods is the leading beef producer in the world and is the majority shareholder of Pilgrim, the leading poultry producer in the world. JBS and Pilgrim created the $100 million Hometown Strong initiative in response to the stresses placed on communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The $1 million local contribution is the latest of the company's efforts to respond to community needs, particularly those involving children, since the company bought and expanded the Plainwell plant in 2011. The JBS Children's Discovery Library in Plainwell was created with a $100,000 gift two years ago.
to donate to the campaign for the new Boys & Girls Clubs building and its operations.