For the employee-owners of Kitchell Corp., maintaining the legacy of the company’s founder to support their communities is not a duty, it’s an honor.
“Sam Kitchell established a legacy of giving back to our community,” said Jim Swanson, Kitchell’s CEO. “Over the years we have maintained and built on that reputation, supporting education, arts organizations and social causes that are important to the communities where we build and reside. And quite frankly, it’s the right thing to do.”
Since its founding in 1950, the company and its employees have become heavily invested, both monetarily and emotionally, in the communities where they work and live. Kitchell has contributed time, people, equipment and money to a number of nonprofit organizations around the Valley that focus on social services and education.
The money given to these organizations comes from the company itself, as well as its Kitchell Employee Foundation. The 501(c)3 foundation is funded through employee payroll deductions and/or individual contributions, plus a match.
“When we established our foundation, we wanted to be able to enhance the giving of our employees and encourage them to contribute by matching their donations,” Swanson said. “Because they were the main contributors, we surveyed them about causes that are important to them and offered them the opportunity to direct their giving. Each year the list of organizations we support has grown and evolved.”
One way Kitchell motivates its employees to give is by holding quarterly competitions. Teams of employees representing a cause take part in various contests and challenges where the grand prize is a 100 percent fundraising match to the organization they are championing. One beneficiary of these contests was JDRF, formerly the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, with a $27,500 donation.
Employees also are encouraged to volunteer their time to worthy causes. As an incentive, for every hour an employee volunteers, the company donates $25 to the volunteer’s designated charity. According to Kitchell, employees have donated more than 200 hours to organizations in Arizona and California, including UMOM New Day Center, Special Olympics Southern California and Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
Kitchell also holds a golf tournament, Build Fore Good, that has raised more than $250,000 since it launched four years ago. The money has benefited HonorHealth Breast Health and Research Center (formerly the John C. Lincoln Breast Health and Research Center), Phoenix Children’s Hospital Foundation and the Semper Fi Fund.
As for the executives at Kitchell, they are tasked with energizing employees’ charitable and volunteer efforts, as well as tending to their own.
For his part, Swanson is a board member of Teach For America, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and Greater Phoenix Leadership. Other nonprofit organizations that have benefited from Kitchell executives include the Foundation for Blind Children, Barrow Neurological Foundation, Boy Scouts of America, the American Heart Association and many others.
“Volunteerism in general has evolved to include more group efforts than individual pursuits, which is probably an indication of how people want to volunteer,” Swanson said. “There’s less desire to ‘join’ but more to ‘participate.’ We have always had champions at Kitchell who are passionate about different causes, drive volunteerism and might get more involved in an advocacy role, as we have with education and Teach For America.
“But now we have large groups of people who use volunteer events as team-building activities: mud running competitions, assembling food bags at (HonorHealth) Desert Mission Food Bank and Feed My Starving Children, and organizing our entire Build Fore Good golf tournament every year. … We support these activities by contributing financially, giving time away from work and incorporating them into our wellness program,” Swanson said.
Taking Sam Kitchell’s example to heart, Swanson understands the importance of nurturing such a legacy.
“I never had the chance to meet Sam, but I work with many people who did,” Swanson said. “He was a humble, quiet and very effective leader who valued people above all, and understood the importance of giving back. Kitchell has touched landmarks all over this community — either through building or giving. I think Sam would be proud of the drive, commitment and passion of the people who work under his name today.”