Disney “Cast” Volunteers Its Services Throughout Valley Companies Best Corporate Volunteer (Large): The Walt Disney Co. By SLAV KANDYBA Staff Reporter The Walt Disney Co. utilizes both its human capital and financial resources when it comes to giving to nonprofits and education and toys, of course. But people come first, as the company’s VoluntEARS program proves. “Disney VoluntEARS are Disney cast members who contribute their time, expertise and effort to make a positive impact on our community,” says Jody Dreyer, senior vice president of Disney’s philanthropic arm called Disney Worldwide Outreach. And that they do. For instance, “for many years they ran a contest for their employees to determine who makes the best Easter baskets,” said Marianne Haver-Hill, executive director of M.E.N.D. in Pacoima. “They would bring these baskets, often they were filled with toys, cosmetic products … and we would share these wonderful baskets with needy recipients.” And, to think, these in-kind gifts weren’t even made by Disney Worldwide Outreach, the philanthropic company within the media conglomerate they were made by employees on the corporate side. This kind of thing “dates back to 1934 when Walt Disney and his employees started donating toys and funds to the Orthopaedic Hospital of Los Angeles,” Dreyer said. Over the last seven decades, the recipients of Disney’s gifts, whether its cash, in-kind and product donations, or public service announcements have grown. Within the borders of the San Fernando Valley, Disney is supporting the St. Joseph Medical Center, Holy Cross, the Entertainment Industry Foundation, Women’s Care Cottage, M.E.N.D. and the Boys and Girls Club of Burbank to name a few. Disney is also the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s largest wish-granting provider for children with life-threatening medical conditions. To determine non-profits to support, Disney looks for groups that “fit into our mission of serving children and families in the areas of compassion, learning, the arts and entertainment,” Dreyer said. Disney does not report dollar amounts by region, says Dreyer, but “I can tell you that in 2003, (Disney) contributed $152 million dollars in cash and in-kind donations globally.” Judi Ketcik, vice president of communications at the Entertainment Industry Foundation, says “We’re really overwhelmed by the support of the Disney Co. They always come out to support our annual fundraising campaigns. They are certainly a leader when it comes to philanthropy.” Disney’s sponsorship has also helped one non-profit get better visibility and recogition directly because of the marquee company’s decision to associate itself with it. Women’s Care Cottage, a North Hollywood-based agency that provides housing for homeless women with children, Disney’s support was “important because that helps to build awareness of our agency,” said Marjorie Gilberg, director of development and communications at Women’s Care. Disney has provided more than $10,000 to Women’s Care over a 4-year span, in addition to numerous in-kind gifts. For example, Disney would notify Women’s Care any time its offices were redone and equipment was donated to L.A. Shares, “a giving center” where an inventory of equipment is parceled out to non-profits through a lottery system, said Gilberg. “Disney does that regularly,” Gilberg said. To put it all in perspective Disney is investing back in the Valley with its people because, well, a good number live in the Valley although the company is international. “We are committed to making a difference in the communities where our cast members live and work, and obviously the San Fernando Valley is very important in that regard,” Dreyer said.