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Corporate Community Cares for Blount County

From donations to outreach efforts, the commitment to this East Tennessee region is strong.

By Kim Madlom on September 22, 2021

From donations to hospitals, schools, families in need and United Way, Blount County’s corporate community reaches out to support their workers, neighbors and fellow citizens.

“The corporate community support in Blount County is simply unmatched,” says Jennifer Wackerhagen, Blount County United Way president and CEO.

United Way of Blount County’s 2021 Most Generous Workplaces list is determined by a company’s philanthropic contributions to United Way during the previous fiscal year. Clayton Homes, DENSO Manufacturing and Arconic top the list.

“We are very grateful for the corporate support we receive from companies like Clayton, DENSO and Arconic,” Wackerhagen says. “They are very generous to not only United Way, but our entire community. We are thankful for their partnership and working alongside us. Change doesn’t happen alone.”

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DENSO Manufacturing

DENSO, a global automotive components manufacturer, employs more than 4,150 people at its Maryville location. As a company, they celebrate the “DENSO spirit,” which includes mobilizing the workforce to help the community.

In addition to being a financial supporter of area hospitals, schools and community efforts, the company rose to the challenge of the pandemic and adapted its manufacturing processes to make personal protective equipment (PPE) for front-line workers.

DENSO engineers brainstormed how the company might pivot from manufacturing auto parts to making PPE for hospitals in need. The group settled on creating a new face shield using materials already on hand and worked with nurses at Blount Memorial Hospital to test the products and provide feedback.

DENSO produced and donated thousands of face shields to help stop the spread of the virus.

Clayton Homes

Clayton Homes uses its resources to be a force for good by enriching the lives of individuals, families and communities. The Clayton Homes Foundation focuses on affordable housing, education and community enrichment.

A recent contribution to the region will help citizens gain skills for employment. Clayton, headquartered in Maryville, and the Clayton Foundation each pledged $250,000 toward the construction of the Ruth and Steve West Workforce Development Center on Pellissippi State Community College’s Blount County campus.

Pellissippi State President L. Anthony Wise describes the gifts as “a continuation of a long partnership with Clayton and the Clayton Foundation to educate Blount County students and prepare them to enter the local workforce with the skills they need to create a bright future for themselves and their families right here in Blount County.”

Work began on the project in October 2020. The new building will feature a Smart Factory MegaLab and offer computer information technology, culinary arts, electrical engineering technology and mechanical engineering technology. A joint project with Tennessee College of Applied Technology Knoxville, the center will also include classes in industrial electrical maintenance and welding, machine tool technology and pipe fitting.

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Blackberry Farm

Blackberry Farm, a luxury hotel and resort, and the Blackberry Farm Foundation have donated more than $1.8 million to local charities over the last decade, including 2020 gifts totaling $165,000. Recent grant recipients include Great Smoky Mountains Heritage Center, New Hope Children’s Advocacy Center, Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont, Walland Elementary School, Boys & Girls Club of Blount County, Pellissippi State Community College and Special Opps Inc.

“We are honored to continue our focus on supporting Blount County programs and initiatives that make a strong impact in our community,” says Mary Celeste Beall, Blackberry Farm proprietor.

Blackberry Farm Foundation grants focus on charitable organizations that provide services, education and support for children and foodways-related causes. With the opening of the company’s newest resort, Blackberry Mountain, the foundation expanded its giving to organizations that provide educational opportunities around art, conservation and environmental sciences.

Arconic

In 2020, Arconic Foundation awarded 13 grants totaling $425,000 to nonprofit organizations in Blount, Knox and Sevier counties to further education, COVID-19 relief and social equity programs.

The foundation is independently endowed and invests in the communities of Arconic Corp., which provides aluminum products in the ground transportation, aerospace, industrial, packaging and building, and construction markets.

Arconic focuses on funding to help grow educational programs, specifically within STEM and manufacturing workforce development. Other funded programs are designed to build a more equitable society, reflecting the diversity of all people.

In Blount County, those funds benefited Alcoa City Schools, Friends of the Library, Boys & Girls Clubs and Pellissippi State Community College.

The $50,000 to Pellissippi State will fund a new after-school program.

“It has been great to hear that so many students – primarily females – have had the opportunity to learn more about opportunities in STEM careers,” says Jeff Weida, plant manager at Arconic Tennessee Operations. “We, along with Arconic Foundation, understand the importance of introducing students to these types of jobs and experiences early. It can make all the difference in preparing today’s youth for the manufacturing jobs of tomorrow.”

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