Conagra employees Step-Up.

I work for Conagra – although not exactly an ad or media agency, we do have a dedicated Hispanic team, which I am part of, and we have done something really nice for the Hispanic community close to our offices. So my letter to you is to recognize all the 30 Conagra employees that volunteer with me to sponsor a Mobile Food Pantry in Aurora IL. We managed to help 223 Hispanic families that would not otherwise have had access to food, as there is not pantry in their area. We did it last September in celebration of Hispanic Heritage month. Let me tell you how it all started.

We have a Latino network of employees at the company and I am an active member. We were planning the festivities for Hispanic heritage month, so everybody was giving ideas of parties, cookouts, etc. I thought that we ought to do something for the Hispanic community around here as they are disproportionally affected by the economy. So I proposed to do a charitable event in where we could volunteer our time and spend Hispanic Heritage month helping our Hispanic Community. I was given the go ahead – the challenge? I had no money to do this!!!

I have contacted HR to understand whether I could get the company to give remunerated time off to some employees to do a charitable event. I was given the green light once more as long as the event was to solve hunger or education. And that was great because hunger was what I had in mind. Latinos are struggling to survive in this economy and some of the basic needs like food sometimes get second place to paying rent and utilities.

I contacted the Northern Illinois Food bank and worked really close with their employees who helped me put a program together to benefit the community of Aurora IL (90% Hispanic and close to our offices in Naperville). I needed to find out $1,500, 30 volunteers and 10 tons of food to make this happen, and this is when Conagra and its employees showed me what they are made off – pure heart!!

After a few meetings, the Conagra foundation donated the money I needed. All brand managers from different food businesses donated the food and I had to turn people away as I reached my needed 30 volunteers within 30 minutes of sending an interoffice e-mail. I am e-mailing you under separate cover an article with the details of the day – It was miserable with rain!!! But so full with hope and good spirits.

I will never forget the people that I had the pleasure to meet that day, and the way they made me grow. Particularly, one lady about 80 years old, she was there in the rain, she could hardly walk the line, she had a suitcase on wheels and a little umbrella. It broke my heart to see her there, so I offer to walk the line for her, she did not take my offer, she felt she needed to walk the line if she was going to take our food. But she did take my arm so we walked together. I took her groceries and put it on her suitcase. When we were done she asked me if she could kiss me. I accepted and she gave me the warmest hug and kiss while saying “Thank you – I would not have eaten this week if it was not because of this”. I could not hold back my tears, and I knew that all the effort and the planning and the countless hours organizing this were so worth it.

So that is our story, I am sure is small compared to what other people have achieved, but I am proud of it, and I would love for the Hispanic community out there to know that Conagra employees are kind and charitable and willing to stand in the rain to help other Hispanics : )

Carelys Hepburn
Senior Marketing Manager – Multicultural group
ConAgra Foods

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