Michilah Grimes, director of philanthropic partnerships, with Jason Lippert during Thursday's press conference announcing LCI's community service initiative

Michilah Grimes, director of philanthropic partnerships for Lippert Components Inc., with CEO Jason Lippert during Thursday’s press conference announcing LCI’s 100,000 hour initiative

As reported on RVBUSINESS.com late last week, Elkhart, Ind.-based supplier Lippert Components Inc. (LCI) is launching an unprecedented companywide “social responsibility initiative” through which LCI’s 7,500 employees are being asked to donate 100,000 hours of community service work in the numerous communities in which LCI’s 48 plants are located.

“Our senior leaders (management) get together as an executive team at the end of the year, and we talk about the business and strategic planning for the upcoming year, and part of what comes out of that meeting are five main strategic goals,” LCI CEO Jason Lippert told RVBUSINESS.com prior to a Thursday (Feb. 9) press conference at which he presented the new charitable initiative. “One of those goals wasn’t monetarily or financially driven in nature, but was a community service goal, and that was the 100,000 hour goal.

“It’s community service and giving back and being one of the major donors in the area from a corporate standpoint in charities, specifically children’s charities, in the communities that we serve in northern Indiana,” said Lippert, whose publicly held company on Thursday reported record 2016 sales of $1.7 billion, a 20% net sales gain over 2015.

Lippert CEO lays out plans for the company's community service initiative

Lippert CEO Jason Lippert lays out plans for the company’s community service initiative

Of course, this isn’t the first high-profile charitable initiative spearheaded by Lippert Components, which supports Habitat for Humanity of Elkhart County Inc. and other charities while also sponsoring a spring auction that seamlessly raises more than a million dollars for the Boys & Girls Club of Goshen. On the contrary, it’s just that this latest announcement is the most radically aggressive charity challenge in an industry that has built a sterling reputation for selfless philanthropy over the years.

And it wouldn’t hurt to recognize that fact once in a while, LCI notwithstanding. Toward that end, here are just a few recent examples of the kinds of projects that RV-related companies do on a routine basis, realizing that many charitable gestures never get publicized because donors aren’t all that excited about the public relations aspects:

Patrick Industries Inc., Heartland RV, Coachmen RV, Keystone RV Co. and Genesis Products were among the firms pooling their efforts in September on a “Running With Spoons” celebrity chef event that raised $250,000 for the Bashor Children’s Home.

Spartan Motors Inc. recently presented Charlotte, Mich.-based AL!VE with a $75,000 donation in support of ongoing programs promoting community health and wellness. The donation is the seventh of 10 installments of a larger $1 million commitment originally pledged during an uncertain economy in 2009 on behalf of The Spartan Motors (Chassis) Foundation.

• In what has become an industry tradition, five-store dealership Mike Thompson RV, based in Santa Fe Springs, Calif., raised a record $81,000 in July’s 6th Annual Charity Golf Tournament to support an array of local charities

KOA Care Camps, largely supported by Kampgrounds of America Inc. franchisees, has raised nearly $1.5 million in each of the past two years to send kids with cancer to summer camps.

• Suburban Denver’s Windish RV was recently recognized by RVBusiness and Ally Financial Inc. for its relentless commitment to two preferred charities — Colorado Youth at Risk, providing mentors and tutors for at-risk kids, and Sense of Security, supporting women with breast cancer.

• As part of a drive to add needed supplies for the newly expanded Ronald McDonald House at Memorial Hospital in South Bend, friends and customers of Dicor Corp. collected more than 100 holiday baskets full of requested supplies in December to help families across Northern Indiana and Southern Michigan.

Having said that, LCI’s management team has made the company’s new 100,000-hour commitment one of its top priorities for 2017 as part of a front-line business agenda that includes a continued drive for diversification, improved employee retention and enhanced lean manufacturing practices. And Jason Lippert would like to see LCI’s new charitable initiative gain favor with other industry firms as his own employees have a chance to warm up to the idea of volunteering their personal time picking up trash or helping out at after-school programs, Little League parks and pet refuges.

“Absolutely,” Lippert told RVBUSINESS.com, “I think there’s some bigger companies leading the way here. I mean, you look at Starbucks and some of the other companies out there that are systematically trying to figure out how to balance corporate profits, community service and social responsibility, which is a big buzz word in the corporate world today. So, trying to balance corporate profits with social responsibility, I think, is a big deal that a lot of companies are trying to figure out how to do. We’re definitely not the first, but I think we’re among the first wave of companies that are trying to step it up and lead by example here in the recreation vehicle industry.”

Already, says Lippert, LCI’s employees have been warming up to the community service program for which the company’s marketing and ITT departments have developed an “LCI Cares” app that employees are encouraged to download so that the management team can keep up in an organized way with the hours committed across the board at any given point in the year.

“I’ve seen in just the two months since we really announced this to our employees that they’re really showing signs of change based on the initiative we’ve launched and our drive to see how transformative it can be for our community if we all get involved,” Lippert said. “It’s been really rewarding to watch our leadership all over the company take this initiative and then roll it out to our 7,500 employees and talk openly about it because, again, it’s something that not a lot of companies are talking about.

“They’re (most firms) talking about production and output and bottom line and top line, and it’s very rewarding to be able to sit there and have honest and open conversations with our people about how we want to impact the communities and about their involvement. One of the things that I think we’ve really excelled at is having Michilah Grimes as our director of philanthropy. Through her, we have a way of plugging people into community service who otherwise might not have known how to do that. I think a lot of people would love to help. They just don’t know how, and now we’ve got that avenue available to them.”