Every year, for as long as anybody can remember, Heartland RVs has partnered with United Way of Elkhart County to raise money for charitable programs in the RV Capital of the World.
Heartland RVs collected approximately $113,000 over the course of this year's campaign. This was the most funds raised by the company in the history of its partnership with United Way of Elkhart County. Part of that success is due to the implementation of the "Pie Your Boss" program.
"It's a fun event to raise a little extra money," says Leona Walker, HR Director at Heartland RVs. "Employees can donate $10 and they get to pie their boss. In the years past, its been the HR director. This year, everybody in HR stepped up, so you could pie anybody in HR. You could pie your plant manager, your assistant plant manager, and in some plants, we had some group leaders step up. Over in Plant 17, we had every single group leader, assistant, and plant manager take a pie."
And thanks to some sizable anonymous donations, several members of Heartland RV's sales team took some pies for the cause. "We had an anonymous person step forward and donate $100 if Andy Wesdorp [General Manager, Landmark and Road Warrior] and Chris Hahaj [General Manager, Cyclone and Torque] would take pies," Walker says. "Then, word got out, and I had a second anonymous donor throw down $100 if Andy and Chris would take some pies."
"Both came out and took many, many pies," says Walker. "Chris didn't even have a chance to change into his United Way shirt. It was out at Plant 69. Tom Ison creamed him with his jacket and everything still on. He was a good sport about it. Took a bunch of pies. Andy took a bunch of pies as well, but they were both great sports about it."
Thanks to the Pie Your Boss initiative and the generous donations of many of Heartland's Elkhart-based employees (the campaign did not include DRV Luxury Suites, Cruiser RV, Bison Coach, or Heartland's other facilities outside of Elkhart County), more than $100,000 was raised for United Way. Among the RV manufacturers in Elkhart, Heartland RVs has been a Top 10 donor for many years. Keystone RV has claimed the top spot for much of the recent past, but Heartland claimed third this year and has its sights set on that top spot.
"When we started a long time ago, it was all about neighbor helping neighbor. We've been around locally for 95 years," Rieth says of the United Way of Elkhart County. "For all that time we've been fighting for the health, education, and income stability of every member of the community."
When it comes to health, United Way of Elkhart assists community members with everything from negotiating prescription costs to navigating the insurance industry to putting people in touch with support groups and counseling. Every $1 donated helps individuals who can't afford medications receive $50 worth of essential medications. Furthermore, for every $50 donated, one family receives support as they face cancer, including a Cancer 101 journal, counseling, and assistance with direct care costs.
In education, the organization works with Boys and Girls Clubs of Elkhart County, Scouts, and other groups to ensure that the young people of Elkhart County receive quality educations. "Every week, over 12,000 kids are impact by something Heartland is doing," says Reith. Every $100 donated helps 25 students succeed at school.
For income, United Way of Elkhart County works with working families achieve financial stability. Every $100 donated helps 40 people obtain a meal or a warm bed. United Way supports La Casa's Money For Life program. "It's a program where you get a financial coach, you get some really good information," explains Rieth. "People find a path forward to pay off debt or achieve some financial dreams." United Way of Elkhart County also helps with emergency assistance and food assistance, and it mobilizes tremendous volunteer workforce to achieve these goals.
"A big thank you from the community," says Rieth. "As we're out and about, people share with us appreciation about how the programs are impacting their lives."
Heartland RVs will start planning the next campaign early in 2018. "We have it slotted on the calendar," Walker says. "When I started at Heartland, we had like 5 or 6 people in HR. Now we're at 16. As a company we've grown as well. We're over 3,000 employees. It really adds to initiatives like this because we have a lot more people coming forward with ideas."