How Companies Can Make A Difference

Elkins Check
Joe Newell (right) presents a check to Daniel Foundation Executive Director Kellie Ann Kelleher and Jacksonville Backyard BBQ Championships chairman Cole Pepper.

by Cole Pepper

This post is a little bit off the beaten track of what you might expect from this site, but I think there is a good point to make.

I had the pleasure of attending a check presentation on behalf of Daniel (I’m the Vice Chairman of the Board of the Daniel Foundation). This event took place in the clubhouse near the top of the Berkman Plaza and was hosted by the folks from Elkins Constructors.

Elkins has participated in the Jacksonville Backyard BBQ Championships each of the last three years and they really adopted the Glyn Cook Memorial Scholarship for Daniel kids as their pet cause. This year, they not only competed in the BBQ contest as a team (two teams actually, one that won the Grand Championship), but they also sold tickets to the event and held several mini-fundraisers throughout the year. All told, Elkins donated over $8,000 to the scholarship fund and to Daniel.

And they tell me that they get more out of it than Daniel does.

How do they do it?

First, they have a strong team leader. If a business is going to adopt a cause (or several causes) you really have to have someone on the inside, driving the efforts. This creates motivation, accountability, even someone for the employees to go to for simple questions. For Elkins, Joe Newell is that guy. He’s not only a passionate BBQ chef, but he’s passionate about Daniel’s cause. Daniel, for those of you unaware, is Florida oldest child-service agency and the oldest charity in Jacksonville (founded in 1884).

The Glyn Cook Memorial Scholarship helps pay the cost of college for formerly homeless kids who have gone through the programs at Daniel. It’s named for my late father-in-law, a former Chairman of the Board at Daniel.

In addition to strong internal leadership, its essential for a company to have buy-in from the top. If management doesn’t support a cause, they may not look favorably on employees spending time on it. At Elkins, they believe in active participation in charitable fundraising and it shows.

Third, Elkins has fun with it! Okay, so forming a barbecue team isn’t the toughest thing to enjoy, but it does take time, energy, planning and resources to do it well. Elkins cooked over 1,000 pounds of meat over the past year in preparation for the Jacksonville Backyard BBQ Championships. The crown they won as the Amateur BBQ Kings of Jacksonville is being handled like the Stanley Cup. Each team member gets the crown for a week and can take it anywhere.

The Crown is awarded to the winning Backyard Division Team each year at the Jacksonville Backyard BBQ Championships.
The Crown is awarded to the winning Backyard Division Team each year at the Jacksonville Backyard BBQ Championships.

Here are a few of the ways Elkins raised money:

  • Selling BBQ dinners to employees, business neighbors and groups.
  • Bake sale
  • Drawing for an Elkins truck
  • Selling tickets to the BBQ contest to vendors, clients and partners

Here’s the wild part about this: Newell told me that its one of the best team building activities they’ve ever done. It’s not just the barbecuing. Truthfully, only a few people really have an influence on how the chicken, ribs and pork come out. But they have people in charge of games for the area, some handle handing out the BBQ to the patrons, others are there to help when needed and generally enjoy the contest. But as much of that team building comes in the months leading up to the contest as on the actual day of the contest. That’s what makes the Elkins story such a great one for companies. Build team morale, get positive attention in the community, make a difference for those in need and be a part of a great community event.

If you know of a company who would like to get involved, like Elkins has, email