Step into GiGi’s Playhouse, an achievement center for people with Down syndrome, and you’ll find kids building confidence while singing karaoke onstage, teens learning new skills and working together to plan events, and adults learning and becoming more independent in the “GiGi U” program. The Lakewood, OH, facility, which serves more than 200 families, is one of 40 GiGi’s Playhouse locations in the United States and Mexico providing free therapeutic, educational, and career development programs for more than 30,000 people of all ages who have Down syndrome.
GiGi’s, with its emphasis on education, is also the kind of organization Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems LLC (Bendix) is committed to supporting through its corporate giving program. Bendix is doing exactly that through Get Involved!, which encourages employees to submit projects for company funding on behalf of nonprofit organizations in which they are currently involved. The program provides grants – up to $3,500 per project – to organizations in Bendix’s home communities that focus on projects in education, health promotion, or social cohesion.
In 2018, Get Involved! funded GiGi’s Playhouse and 47 other projects near Bendix facilities in Elyria; Acuña, Mexico; Bowling Green, KY; and Huntington, IN, totaling over $120,000 in company grants.
Bendix, the North American leader in the development and manufacture of active safety, air management, and braking solutions for commercial vehicles, provides funding to cover material costs – operating costs are not included. Projects must be completed within six months of acquiring funding.
“Social responsibility is a deeply held core value of our company and part of a long-standing commitment to give back to our home communities,” says Maria Gutierrez, Bendix Director of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability. “The passion and talent of our employees are what brings the Get Involved! program to life. The grants are deliberately smaller scale, enabling us to provide more to the community – in terms of a broader range of organizations we can assist, as well as the overall impact due to the strong engagement of our employees. The response from our team members and the passion with which they have embraced Get Involved! offers a glimpse into the commitment and true spirit of our workforce.”
Matthew Lombardi, Financial Sales Analyst at Bendix, and his family have participated in many Lakewood GiGi’s Playhouse programs with their son, Carter, who has Down syndrome. In 2018, Lombardi submitted a grant to support the Speech and Language Program, which provides children, teens, and adults with greatly expanded opportunities to evolve and refine their speech and language skills.
Bendix contributed $3,500 for classroom equipment and training materials. The program is open to participants of all ages and will eventually run four, 12-week sessions throughout the year. Effective pronunciation, clarity of speech, word order, and message meaning are crucial to building self-confidence, school readiness, and other necessary skills. In 2016, Bendix also sponsored all the resources for the Math Lab at the Lakewood GiGi’s Playhouse.
Breaking Barriers and Improving Lives
In 2018, the 48 Get Involved! projects worked to improve education, break down technological barriers, and begin paths to recovery. A sampling includes these projects in Acuña, Bowling Green, and Huntington.
In Acuña, Casa Omnia offers after-school care and school assistance to children from impoverished families. The organization provides children with homework help, educational and extracurricular activities, and emotional and psychological support to ensure they stay in school and off the streets. Bendix supplied $3,500 to install ceiling insulation to help keep the classrooms comfortable during the extreme temperatures experienced in Acuña. Bendix employee Irasema de la Rosa submitted the project.
In Bowling Green, the Bowling Green Area Microcomputer User Group is committed to increasing technology accessibility and education by connecting local computer users, local charities, and those who need assistance with technology. From helping community centers install printers to upgrading learning software for youth, BGAMUG works to eliminate financial and knowledge barriers to technology. Bendix contributed $1,000 to help purchase new or refurbished hardware, learning and word processing software installs, and cost-effective printing solutions thanks to the project submission by Bendix’s John Walker.
In Huntington, the Women’s and Children’s House created by New Life Ministries provides a safe place for women to recover with their children. The free home offers classes and group support to help women gain independence and begin the path to recovery from imprisonment, drug addiction, homelessness, and abuse. Bendix contributed $3,400 for a new playset and privacy fence to provide a safe place for the children to play outside, thanks to the project submission by team member Edward Kratz.
“Through volunteering and participation with local nonprofits, employees discovered the needs in their communities and were the driving force in completing these projects,” Gutierrez says. “With their involvement, Bendix was able to identify these high-impact projects that have the power to influence entire communities. Their passion is inspiring, and we’re excited to fund more projects in 2019.”