Tucked away in the rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina, more than 500 American workers get up each day to clock in at AEV, one of REV’s premier ambulance brands. But here, where the factory’s picturesque backdrop and the employee’s southern charm make you feel like you’ve stepped into a Norman Rockwell painting, “clocking in” has a purpose that goes beyond paying the bills.
For more than 10 years, AEV employees have been setting aside money from their paychecks to help those in need, and in return AEV matches each employee donation dollar for dollar. Roughly 65% of the employees choose to participate in AEV’s donation program each year, and the results are inspiring. This Thursday, just days before Christmas, AEV will present a record $45,500 in donations to community charities.
And it’s AEV’s employees who get to decide where the money goes.
By the end of March, charities must submit their donation application. Eventually, AEV formulates a list of charities (usually three pages long), and then it’s left up to participating AEV employees to vote on which organizations receive the funds. (AEV is big on local community support, so most of the focus is placed on Ashe County.) Once funds are tallied, $500 checks are cut to charities that focus on multiple counties, including Ashe County, and in-county-only charities that don’t fall in the employee’s Top 6 list. The remaining funds (and the bulk of the donation) will then be distributed among the in-county Top 6 organizations based on the percentage of votes each organization receives from AEV employees.
Once funds are tallied, $500 checks are cut to out-of-county charities as well as in-county charities that don’t fall in the employee’s Top 6 list. The remaining funds and the bulk of the donation pot is then distributed among the Top 6 organizations based on the percentage of votes each organization receives from AEV employees.
This year, AEV will give money to 16 charities! Here is AEV’s Top 6 recipients:
Ashe Outreach Ministries
Provides more than 2,300 people with food each month from a community of efforts.
A Safe Home for Everyone (A.S.H.E.)
Provides services and support for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Ashe Services for Aging
Provides a wide range of services to seniors and disabled adults of Ashe County.
Ashe Really Cares (ARC)
Provides food, clothing, kerosene heaters, handicap ramps and more to those in need.
Ashe County ADAP
Provides individual and family services to those in need in Ashe County.
Ashe Co. Sharing Center
Provides food to those in need through its emergency food pantry services.
Choosing the organizations has had an empowering effect on AEV’s employees. As a warranty administrator who prides himself on “taking care of problems,” Dominick Gaetano Jr. can’t say enough about AEV’s donation program. As a community chaplain, Gaetano knows a number of people who have been helped by these funds, and other AEV employees can point to
“What the employees are doing here is making a real difference,” Gaetano says.
And it’s one of the many reasons he has clocked in for more than 20 years at AEV.
Day in and day out, Gaetano helps “take care of problems” as a warranty administrator. “When you connect people with someone else who can help them, you can solve a lot of problems,” he says. And that applies on the factory line, after the sale and case in point, in the Ashe County community. Gaetano considers it a blessing to have an opportunity to help people who need help, and AEV is part of the vehicle that drives the process.
AEV Brand Manager Randy Barr has been helping tally the donations for the last six years and he sees the impact on his co-workers. “This program makes the employees feel great, and what’s even more remarkable is the fact that AEV continues to support this even though we’ve added hundreds of employees over the years. The donations have gone from $32,000 to $45,000 in just the last five years, and that says a lot about this company.”
Dominick agrees with Barr’s AEV assessment.
“It’s why we have such long employee retention. Most employees have been at AEV for more than 10 years,” Dominick says. “Our leadership has an open door policy, and it’s not unusual to see the CFO lying underneath an ambulance, if that’s what it takes to get the job done. And I’ve seen a lot of second chances here, and in return, we can give our community a lot of second chances, too."