DEARBORN - Since its start, Ford Motor Company has been heavily involved in the communities where it operates. For the past six decades, this philanthropic work has been managed by the Ford Motor Company Fund, which was established by Henry Ford II in 1949.
The Ford Fund still is guided by the vision of his grandfather, who believed in investing in communities.
“There are many acts of philanthropy that occurred before the Fund was in existence,” said Jim Vella, president, Ford Fund and Community Service. “I like to think of corporate citizenship as being the DNA of the company. We have a responsibility to meet community needs as a good neighbor in the community.”
Today, the Ford Fund focuses on four areas of service – education, driving safety, Ford Volunteer Corps and community life.
Driving dreams through education
Henry Ford believed in the power of education to improve lives and strengthen communities; today education remains a key focus of the Fund.
More than 500 Ford Blue Oval Scholarships each year are awarded to college and college-bound students. Also Ford PAS provides interactive and career-relevant curriculum to educators working with business and civic leadership to transform high school education.
Driving a brighter future
In the United States the No. 1 cause of death among teenagers is vehicle crashes. In order to combat this issue, the Ford Driving Skills for Life program teaches new teen drivers skills to help them become better drivers.
Ford Driving Skills for Life has a global outreach as well. In the United States, the program focuses on teen drivers while in China and other Asia Pacific markets, the program is aimed at helping people who are first-time drivers of any age to become familiar with their vehicles and to drive safely around pedestrians.
Helping hands to build a better world
The Ford Volunteer Corps was started in 2005 by Bill Ford in response to three natural disasters at the time. Ford asked teams to launch volunteer efforts in Southeast Asia and along the U.S. Gulf Coast.
In Thailand, employees from both Chennai and Rayong manufacturing plants dedicated part of their work week to work with Habitat for Humanity.
Last year, some 27,000 employees and retirees volunteered about 120,000 hours, which is worth U.S. $2.4 million in in-kind contributions.
“It’s not just about writing a check,” said Vella. “It’s about creating a longterm,lifelong relationship with the communities where we do business.”
Driving the community forward
One program that supports community life is the Ford Mobile Food Pantry program launched in 2009 and uses a specially outfitted Ford Transit Connect.
“The Ford Mobile Food Pantry takes what we do best at Ford – build great cars and trucks – and applies it to a community need, hunger, for an innovative solution,” said Vella.
The program is in Florida and Michigan now with expansion planned into Tennessee and elsewhere with dealer support.
“Imitation may be the highest form of flattery, but to me it’s validation that we are on the right track with this program,” said Vella. “It is gratifying when dealers like Suburban Ford in southeast Michigan and Sam Galloway Ford in south Florida are willing to purchase their own Ford Mobile Food Pantry and participate in the program. And it’s amazing what together we can accomplish.”