Parting gift: Sabic gives $1 million to Berkshire United Way
Photo Gallery | Sabic donates $1 million to Berkshire United Way
PITTSFIELD — Hoping to leave behind more than vacant industrial space, the departing Sabic Innovative Plastics on Friday recalled a 10-year legacy of local charitable giving and added to it a major shot in the arm, granting Berkshire United Way a $1 million endowment.
Officials of both organizations gathered at Sabic's Plastics Avenue headquarters to announce the gift, which Berkshire United Way President and CEO Kristine Hazzard called "phenomenal" and said would help power their activities "well into the future."
"Their [fundraising] campaign is as much about having fun as it is raising dollars," Hazzard said. "From wine tastings to pie throws to auctions and all sorts of other fun special events, they like to have fun. The total philanthropic investment made through the years to the Berkshire United Way campaign has been over $2.5 million."
Employee donations and a corporate policy of matching these to the tune of 50 cents on the dollar has added up to total givings of roughly $250,000 per year for a decade from Sabic to BUW.
The most significant single donation yet, Friday's gift would in part be used to beef up the organization's programming in early childhood literacy, which Hazzard called "our biggest focus right now." Only 54 percent of Berkshire County third-graders are reading proficiently.
Positive youth development and family financial stability education programs run by Berkshire United Way would also see benefit from the endowment's funds, Hazzard said.
"It definitely will have a long-term impact," she added.
Greg Adams, Sabic Americas' regional vice president, praised BUW's "relentless focus and passion for improving the quality of life for the residents of Pittsfield and Berkshire County."
Adams said Hazzard's tenure has seen BUW become more "impact-focused," specifically regarding the three areas listed above.
"Three areas that plant the seeds of future success where they're most needed," he said. "The positives strides that the Berkshire United Way are helping the community to make represent a vital and lasting contribution to the vibrancy of Pittsfield and the surrounding areas."
Presently, Berkshire United Way has one $250,000 endowment and a second fund worth roughly the same amount. The new endowment gives the organization a significant amount of additional stability, Hazzard said.
"This is huge; it surpasses both of those combined," she added.
Moved to tears recounting the story of 10 years of voluntarism and giving, Hazzard spoke to the future.
"I know Sabic employees who remain in the Berkshires will continue to support our local community," Hazzard said. "It's in their blood. Those employees who have accepted new assignments will quickly embrace their new locations and communities and they will continue to give, advocate and volunteer. Our loss is their gain, and that's what makes this so bittersweet."
Hazzard also pointed out the volunteer work by Sabic employees in local schools and for other key organizations.
Sabic employees helped build an outdoor science classroom and greenhouses at Williams Elementary School, a pavilion, wildlife observation center at Canoe Meadow Sanctuary and greenhouses and a learning laboratory at Hancock Shaker Village.
They also participated in Downtown Pittsfield Inc.'s corporate cleanup event and packaged and paid for learning kits for local students at The Berkshire Eagle Newspapers in Education program and contributed knowledge and funds to local high school science departments.
At the event Friday, Sabic Senior Director of Procurement for the Americas Region Bob Basila presented Hazzard a plaque commemorating the gift "in honor of the agency's work to make Berkshire County a community of hope and opportunity for every individual and family.
Recently, Sabic employees helped BUW install 50 "book houses" full of free reading materials all around the company as part of the 2016 Day of Caring.
Sabic employees also serve on a variety of BUW committees.
In fall of last year, the Saudi-based corporation announced plans to vacate Pittsfield with plans to make its new headquarters in Houston, Texas.
Adams said Friday plans are in place to vacate the space on Plastics Avenue — which is owned by General Electric — by year's end.
The endowment gift to BUW was worked out during that time as "part of the process" of deciding to leave, Adams said.
In a former Eagle interview, Williams College economics professor Stephen Sheppard estimated that the resultant job loss to the region would be about 495 after factoring in the ripple effect on other industries. He also said that put the total hit to the Berkshire County economy at $166 million per year, a decline of roughly 3 percent.
Though the plastics division will close, the company has yet to weigh in on weather the separate Polymer Processing Development Center located nearby would remain in operation.
The endowment will "help fill the void," Hazzard said, along with the employees who will remain here in the Berkshires.
"We're talking to our other campaigns," Hazzard said. "We're being very candid about how we don't yet know how big the hit will really be. We have to live with our new reality, be sure we're investing in really good programs and initiatives that deliver results."
Contact Phil Demers at 413-496-6214.