PLUS Special Section
2009 Conference Cause
PLUS thanks host cities through community service
By Phil Zinkewicz
In 2004, PLUS leaders decided to thank the host cities in which they held their annual meetings by leaving those cities just a little bit better off than when they arrived. This was the start of the PLUS Foundation Conference Cause, which chooses particular charities for monetary donations as well as volunteer services.
The first recipient of the Conference Cause’s assistance was the Armed Services YMCA of San Diego. In 2005, PLUS chose Big Brothers Big Sisters in Boston and, a year later, the Foundation worked with Chicago’s Special Olympics. In 2007, the Foundation contributed funds and services to the Walter Reed Society in Washington, D.C., and, last year, the Conference Cause was San Francisco’s UCSF Children’s Hospital—specifically the hospital’s Child Life Program.
Dan Jenney, executive director of the PLUS Foundation, says that, given the current economic situation, this time around PLUS chose a charity that meets peoples’ basic need—food to eat.
The Greater Chicago Food Depository, Chicago’s food bank, is a nonprofit food distribution and training center providing food for hungry people while striving to end hunger in the community. Through a network of 600 food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters, the Food Depository distributes donated and purchased food to 500,000 adults and children every year. Last year, the Food Depository distributed more than 46 million pounds of nonperishable food and fresh produce, dairy products and meat, the equivalent of more than 95,000 meals every day, according to Jenney.
Innovative training programs and initiatives developed by the Food Depository also work to provide men, women and children with the tools necessary to break their individual cycles of poverty, he says. “In these economic times, the most basic of needs increase in demand,” says Jenney.
PLUS Foundation President David B. Williams, senior vice president of Specialty Insurance for Chubb Insurance Co. of Canada, says: “There’s no way to measure the good works performed at the Food Depository every day.” Going beyond food distribution, the Food Depository has a number of core programs, including:
• Chicago’s Community Kitchens—Cooking and kitchen work instruction provided by professional chefs to unemployed and underemployed people
• Kids Café and Nourish for Knowledge—After-school and food take-home programs targeting impoverished children who may otherwise go hungry
• Mobile programs—Collecting and distributing perishable foods as well as reaching parts of the community that would otherwise have difficulty accessing their services
• Programs for older adults—Working with housing authorities and other partners to deliver meals to indigent, elderly populations.
“It is clear why this was an obvious choice for PLUS’s annual Conference Cause,” Williams says.
This will be PLUS’s sixth annual Conference Cause, according to Jenney. “Since we began the Conference Cause in 2004, PLUS members have donated $185,000 and have offered 250 volunteers to the various charities we’ve adopted,” he says. “This year, we’re hoping for 100 volunteers just for this one event. Our volunteers will be doing warehouse work, separating food and preparing it for delivery. We’re looking forward to it.”