With 151 million orphans worldwide, sometimes our efforts to provide these children with a loving family feel like we’re trying to empty the Pacific Ocean with a teaspoon. Fortunately, we get a lot of help, and one of the growing sources of support in the world of orphan care is the corporate sector. Bethany Christian Services, as well as other wonderful organizations devoted to helping vulnerable children, are the beneficiaries of a concept coined in the 1970s: corporate social responsibility (CSR). Simply stated, CSR suggests a company exists not just to return profits to its shareholders, but also to use some of those profits for the good of society. Consider it a corporate mandate of Luke 12:48 (NIV): “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded.”
Corporations are demonstrating that responsibility by “standing in the gap” as state and federal funding for social services decreases. For example, the organization I lead, Bethany Christian Services, has enjoyed the blessings of a wonderful partnership with Howard Miller, an innovative company known worldwide for its exquisite craftsmanship displayed in their clocks and other home furnishings. Through their generous support, many families adopting children with special needs have been able to receive financial assistance to make this possible.
The giant food distribution company, Gordon Food Service, recently sponsored a “Jeans Day” where employees paid the company for the privilege of wearing jeans to work. The proceeds from that event were donated to Bethany’s One Family sponsorship model, providing critical resources such as food, medicine, assistance with school fees, clean drinking water, and help for a parent to start a small business—all aimed at keeping families healthy and intact. In reality, many of the 151 million orphans have a single parent, but due to poverty these children often turn to the streets for survival or end up in orphanages.
It’s gratifying to see companies like IBM, Verizon, and Oracle who have provided financial support to the Retail Orphan Initiative (www.retailroi.org) that is used to help vulnerable children and families around the world. And did you know that every time you grab a burger at a Wendy’s, you can help support orphans? Last year, those little canisters on the Wendy’s counters raised $2.8 million to help find homes for children waiting in foster care. Or consider the Amway Corporation, who directs eighty percent of its charitable giving to children’s causes.
Companies big and small across North America sponsor events such as golf outings, clothing drives, road races, and matching gift programs on behalf of vulnerable children. Increasingly, they are also providing generous adoption benefits to encourage their employees to open their homes to children. Companies like New York Life, who offers its workers up to $10,000 reimbursement of adoption expenses. Last year, 47 percent of about 1,000 major U.S. companies offered financial aid for adoption, up from just 12 percent in 1990, according to the human resources consulting firm Hewitt Associates.
The ocean of orphans is still very wide and deep, but so are the resources of the business community. Does your employer know there are millions of children who need a home, or are in danger of losing their home due to poverty? Could you organize an event at your workplace on behalf of these children? When vulnerable children are given a loving, nurturing home, everyone profits.