Hypertherm HOPE Foundation: Dedicated Associates Drive Community GivingDec 13, 2021 12:53PM ● By By Katherine P. Cox Photos Courtesy of Hypertherm Hope Foundation
Frist LEGO Robotics New Hampshire qualifier competition, 2019.
The HOPE team, comprised of 12 associates across all areas of the company, evaluates grant applications from nonprofits in the community, votes, and decides on how much grant money should go to those organizations. “One of the most compelling and powerful parts of HOPE is that all of the decisions are put in the hands of our associates. It’s a very important principle of ours. We have democratized the decision-making of our foundation to reflect Hypertherm as a 100 percent associate-owned company. Our philanthropic work is done through the hearts and minds of our associates,” Jenny says.
“The focus of our STEM program is to expose, excite, and engage kids ages eight through eighth grade in and out of school,” Jenny says. HOPE has strategic partnerships with the Montshire Museum of Science and the Vermont Institute of Natural Science, and it sponsors LEGO and robotics competitions. Hypertherm also hosted, pre-Covid, more than 1,000 students annually visiting on field trips, doing hands-on activities, and taking part in question-and-answer panels with engineers. In addition, they host a high school internship program and the STEM vacation camp for middle-schoolers.
“With strategic focus areas like STEM, yes, it is grants to community organizations that are also doing STEM work, but we try to expand our work by bringing our own capabilities to bear to expose, excite, and engage middle-school youth,” Jenny says. In addition to participating in in-house programs, associates volunteer their time out in the community doing things like coaching robotic teams. That integrated partnership extends to HOPE’s other two focus areas.
Substance-Use DisorderFocusing on education for prevention, increasing empathy and removing the stigma around people who are in recovery, and funding programs aimed at sustaining and supporting recovery, HOPE partners with other nonprofits and employers in the community and has its own programs within Hypertherm to address substance-use disorder. “This came about over five years ago when our associates voiced either their own or family members’ substance-use disorder. Sadly, we also had an associate pass away from an overdose. We found that across our community this was a growing epidemic. We took a lot of time to listen to and understand our own associates and honed in on areas we wanted to focus on—education, reducing stigma, and increasing our conversations out in the community. Now we are proud to call ourselves a recovery-friendly workplace,” says Jenny.
HOPE has a strategic partnership with Headrest, an organization in Lebanon that offers counseling, treatment, and a safe place for those in recovery, and with the Headrest Opportunity to Work program that helps people find work. “We are hiring people from that program and trying to support people in their recovery through employment,” Jenny says. HOPE also supports Moms in Recovery through the Upper Valley Haven, Step Up Parents, Connecticut Valley Addiction Recovery, and Second Growth.
work goes beyond these three areas, too. “During COVID, we received
funds to deploy to community nonprofits that were facing constrained
funding or had additional needs. We quickly created a COVID relief fund
where we received over $150,000 of additional donations that we
immediately turned around and regranted to nonprofit partners that were
addressing the most acute needs across our community,” Jenny says. For
example, HOPE helped fund personal protective equipment for childcare
settings and increased funding to the Upper Valley Haven in White River
Junction, which had a higher demand on its food shelf.
With the rise of racial justice concerns, in January of 2019 HOPE adopted the principles of equity, diversity, and inclusion. “We have worked diligently on improving our reflection as a grantor to be more inclusive and on how we approach the community on inclusion, diversity, and racial justice,” Jenny says. “We are thinking about what our grant application is like and what that application experience is, being more thoughtful about who is around the table at HOPE, and making sure we are as inclusive and diverse as we should be.