Giving back is central to the DNA of Redwood Logistics. When COVID-19 sent businesses scrambling to implement remote workforces and communities struggling to meet even the most basic of needs of their citizens, the leadership of Redwood knew it could help.
“Like a lot of groups around the country, we sent workers homes [and went] fully digital within days,” Todd Berger, Redwood president, told FreightWaves. “We realized that people across the country were very scared, and this included our employees.”
Tapping into its philanthropic background – Redwood annually hosts the Redwood Games, raising over $100,000 each year for local community programs – the company decided to step up, creating the #HeroChallenge.
The #HeroChallenge raised over $100,000 for frontline workers. The effort involved 31 teams of Redwood employees and 13 different acts of kindness. Donations of food, money, supplies, blood and masks were made to nurses, emergency room staff, doctors, shelter workers, first responders, warehouse staff and truck drivers.
To raise the funds, the Redwood teams staged virtual concerts, competitions, games, comedy shows and podcasts.
“Ultimately, there are folks out there in the country who had it tougher than us,” Berger said, adding that the #HeroChallenge also served to help Redwood’s own employees remain connected in the new remote world.
Tim Zelasko, Redwood’s chief operations officer, said the employee teams were tasked with generating ideas to raise funds or help support communities during the pandemic. Some wrote letters to teachers or sent food to hospitals, while others held raffles. Masks were made, truck drivers were fed and meals were delivered to nursing homes. One employee who moonlights as a comedian put on a virtual comedy show.
“The employees of Redwood were the creative force behind this,” Zelasko said.
In all, the nearly 700 employees raised approximately $54,000, with Redwood matching that amount.
Among the organizations that benefited from the #HeroChallenge are:
- Live Healthy Chicago is a community-based collaborative comprised of Forty Acres Fresh Market, The MAAFA Redemption Project, My Block My Hood My City, Rush University Medical Center and West Side United. Its mission is to address the immediate wellness of seniors and high-risk populations in target Chicago communities experiencing the highest COVID-19 disparities and food insecurities. Live Healthy Chicago is invested in dismantling the systemic racial and health inequities prevalent in target communities by implementing, funding and sustaining immediate, long-term and collective tactics.
- The El Paso Community Foundation has created a fund to help the El Paso (Texas) County Medical Society address a shortage of N95 respirator masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE) desperately needed by outpatient physicians and health care workers so they can treat patients and prevent unnecessary and costly emergency room visits. The El Paso Community Foundation will match donations dollar for dollar to the El Paso County Medical Society COVID-19 Masks and PPE Fund.
- Innovative Express Care was born from a vision to create a better health care experience in which patients could receive high-quality care that is both convenient and affordable. Innovative Express Care will use funds donated by Redwood for a grant to provide COVID testing for Medicaid patients.
- Direct Relief International has been working to get protective gear and critical care medications to as many health care workers as possible, as quickly as possible, with emergency deliveries leaving daily for medical facilities across the U.S. Since January, Direct Relief has delivered over 12 million N95 and surgical masks, 4 million gloves, 1 million face shields and tens of thousands of protective suits and other items to safeguard health workers. Direct Relief coordinates with public health authorities, nonprofits and businesses throughout the U.S. and globally to provide PPE and essential medical items to health care workers responding to COVID-19.
Berger said that, in addition to the good created for the community, he felt the #HeroChallenge really benefited Redwood.
“It makes the ‘why’ we work here more important,” he said.
The organizations that received funds were chosen for their importance to communities both on the local and national level, Berger said.
Zelasko added, “It was difficult because the list could just keep going, but we wanted to narrow in on a few that would be most effective in getting the money deployed properly.”
Redwood typically sponsors 20 to 30 events per year, Berger said, with children’s health issues a core issue to address for the company.
“Even though we’ve closed out the Hero Challenge, we’re still very involved in these organizations and fundraising,” he said. “We are still very involved with these causes, and fortunately and unfortunately, they keep popping up.”