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Comcast Cared — 30,000 Ways

10/10/2004 8:00 PM Eastern

National volunteers: 30,000. Total man-hours: 180,000. Positive impressions on local community leaders: incalculable.

Volunteers who took part in Comcast Corp.’s fourth annual national “Comcast Cares Day” on Saturday, Oct. 2, built houses, raked leaves, painted schools and distributed food for the hungry in the largest numbers ever posted by the company.

“We’re not used to having that many at once,” Norm Wilber of the Dallas-area Habitat for Humanity chapter said of the Comcast Cares crew.

On an average day, Wilber shepherds 20 volunteers per house, with 10 to 15 houses going up at any one time in the region. The local influx of Comcast volunteers was so large that he had to find extra jobs for them, he said.

That was a nice problem to have, added Wilber, because a lot can be accomplished with that many people at work.

STAINING FENCES

In Dallas, a development called Greenfield Village includes 300-developer built homes and 100 Habitat homes, Wilber said. Part of the Comcast volunteer force was shifted to existing Habitat homes to stain fences for the homeowners, and some went to the local elementary school to spruce up the grounds. Others helped complete the 400th Habitat home in the Dallas area.

“It meant a lot to us, but it meant even more to the families,” Wilber added.

Comcast Cares has grown from a hometown volunteer initiative to one that now involves every business unit, including systems Comcast acquired in the AT&T Broadband acquisition, said executive vice president David Cohen. Though it is a corporate initiative, local and regional operations select the target charities and community groups, Cohen said.

“When I look at all of the things we have done at Comcast, one of the things I am most proud of is Comcast Cares Day,” Comcast Cable Communications Inc. CEO Steve Burke said. “It’s a great part of what makes our company special.”

In all, 284 community organizations in 32 states were the recipients of the company’s largess.

Cohen noted that there were systems where the volunteer turnout exceeded the size of the local workforce — such as Little Rock, Ark. (170 employees), and a suburban Cleveland system (200 employees) — because workers enlisted the support of family members and friends for the day.

Unlike charitable work such as support of the United Way, where workers earn premiums for their financial support of the organization, Comcast workers receive no incentives for participating in Comcast Cares day, Cohen said. In addition to the manual labor, the chosen charities get cash donations from the Comcast Foundation, based on the number of cable employees who participate in local projects. That’s the closest thing employees have to an inducement to roll up their sleeves, Cohen said.

For the operator, the political benefit is obvious. For example, politicians in Albquerque, N.M., have criticized the local cable operator for years.

Comcast now owns the Albquerque operation, and local workers chose to volunteer to beautify five local public schools. Those who turned out to witness the work included the mayor, the state secretary of labor and a congresswoman.

'BLOWN AWAY’

Cohen, who worked in Albuquerque and Denver as part of the charity drive, said, “I think they were all blown away.”

Asked about Comcast’s beautification efforts, Gene Pino, executive director of the Albuquerque Public Schools Foundation, said, “They really do care about Albuquerque public schools.”

In addition to painting schoolrooms and primping the landscaping, the operator has donated hard dollars for scholarships and is a sponsor of a local fund-raising golf tournament, he added.

“When Comcast says they’re gonna do something, they do it first class,” Pino said.

Cohen added he hoped that employees would be inspired by the work they do on Comcast Cares Day to find year-round projects with the target organizations.

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