Torch Helps, an employee-run and funded 501(c)(3) charitable organization, has provided grants to more than 89 local charities since its inception in June 2005. Torch Helps is voluntarily funded and operated by Torch employees. It raises contributions for local charities through payroll deduction and designated gifts. The organization operates under the direction of a volunteer review board, which receives formal grant applications from charities that are then evaluated against a consistent set of questions to screen applicants. Applicants are also evaluated against the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance Standards for Charity Accountability. When a charity passes these standards, the charities are voted on by contributing employees. The highest calling in life is to help others. Torch supports our employees’ charitable efforts by covering all of the administrative costs of Torch Helps. Thus, 100 percent of the donations to Torch Helps goes to the organizations selected by the employees. Torch Helps believes that “Together Our Resources Can Help.” This captures the spirit and inspiration of Torch’s culture of giving.
Torch Helps awards two or more $10,000 grants quarterly, as well as numerous smaller grants each quarter. To date, Torch Helps has contributed more than $800,000 to its local communities.
Torch Helps and Hurricane Katrina
Just months after Torch Helps was established, one of its first efforts was assisting survivors of Hurricane Katrina around Waveland, MS, the hometown of a senior manager at Torch. “I knew I had to do something; I didn’t know what,” he said about learning of the devastation along the Gulf Coast. He soon headed to the Mississippi coast in his van, hauling a utility trailer with food, tents, clothing, gasoline, and propane tanks. After he returned to Huntsville, the urge to help still lingered, particularly a childhood friend who was the sheriff of a hard-hit area. The Torch senior manager appealed to Torch Helps, and the organization received significant contributions from Torch customers, colleagues, and original investors. Torch employees also collected items and put together care packages to send to disaster victims. In all, $10,000 in cash and equipment such as generators, chain saws, and propane tanks were donated to the relief effort. “The outpouring of support was phenomenal,” He said. “The generosity of Torch people was overwhelming.”
The Torch Helps team loads supplies bound for the gulf coast during Hurricane Katrina.
Torch Helps… A Pay It Forward Story
Torch Helps came to the rescue of local Boy Scouts after a Torch employee heard a local TV station’s Crime Stoppers report about the troop’s trailer and camping equipment being stolen. Torch Helps bought a new trailer for the troop, and a partner in the effort, Miltec, bought new camping supplies. Troop members and their parents gathered at Torch’s headquarters on Chris Drive, with the Boy Scouts believing they were there as part of a service mission to help with traffic control for a Torch open house.
When the new trailer was presented to the troop, “You didn’t have a dry eye in the house,” recalled Torch co-founder and CEO Bill Roark. That event is when Roark realized “we had created something special” with Torch Helps. The desire to provide a donated gift to the Scouts is even more special, Roark said, because it didn’t stop there. The Boy Scout troop in turn donated the camping supplies to a Boy Scout troop in a Mississippi community affected by Hurricane Katrina. But the “pay-it-forward” story still wasn’t complete. One of the troop members, a high school senior, wrote about Torch’s ethical practices and community involvement in an essay he submitted in a competition that’s part of the annual Torch Awards for Business Ethics. As a result of Torch’s donation, the company received its first nomination for the Better Business Bureau of North Alabama’s Torch Award for Business Ethics. When Torch was announced the winner during the award ceremony, Torch co-founder Don Holder accepted the award because Roark was so overcome with emotion. The award was “the perfect recognition of doing well for others,” Roark said.