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J.R. Simplot Co. makes mark with ‘impactful philanthropy’

By Michael Boss

The J.R. Simplot Co.’s marketing tagline, “Bringing Earth’s Resources to Life,” implies its approach to corporate giving.

Since its founding more than 70 years ago by J.R. “Jack” Simplot, the company has recognized that these resources necessarily include human capital that can best be brought to life by supporting community needs, education, youth, and the arts through direct contributions, scholarships, and personal involvement.

“Our focus on education, youth and the arts stems from our founder, who believed that investing in youth is critical to our future,” said Sue Richardson, director of company communications for the J.R. Simplot Co. “Our communities give a lot to our various employees and operations that are located around the country, and we will always be committed to giving back to them.”

The company has established a culture of giving and support, such as forming a volunteer service committee that helps employees get involved in volunteer activities and provides hundreds of hours of volunteer service on behalf of nonprofit organizations. Causes include the Bob LeBow Bike Tour supporting Terry Reilly Health Services, working on local United Way campaigns, participating in Ronald McDonald House events, and helping to support events like Special Olympics.

For many years, the J. R. Simplot Co. has acted as a large corporate sponsor for United Way – not only holding one of the Treasure Valley’s largest corporate campaigns, but also supporting United Way campaigns throughout its various community locations.

In 2009, United Way of the Treasure Valley awarded the company the Spirit of Treasure Valley award, which recognizes individuals and organizations for leadership and commitment to improve lives and strengthen communities through outstanding achievements during United Way’s annual community campaigns.

Hungry families in Idaho have benefited often from the J. R. Simplot Co.’s in-kind donations of food. Most recently, the company donated 35,000 pounds of potatoes to the Idaho Foodbank and the Boise Rescue Mission. The company’s philanthropic support of the arts is evidenced in a variety of efforts across Idaho. Whether it is Ballet Idaho, the Boise Art Museum, or numerous other agencies, Simplot’s support of these organizations has helped maintain the importance of art as part of their communities’ education efforts.

J.R. and Esther Simplot were among the first supporters of the Idaho Ronald McDonald House, providing a donation that allowed the founding board to purchase a four-bedroom home in east Boise that opened its doors in 1988 to serve as a home-away-from-home for families of ill or injured children when they traveled to Boise to receive medical care.

Throughout the years, a member of the J.R. Simplot Co. has sat on the board of directors of the Ronald McDonald House, helping to guide the direction of the organization and ensure continued successful operation of its mission. Employees from the volunteer committee also participate in annual fundraisers, providing hundreds of hours of time each year serving on event committees, working on setup, filling shifts at major fundraising events, and helping after the fact with cleanup.

“The J.R. Simplot Co. is synonymous with impactful philanthropy,” said Mindy Plumlee, executive director of Ronald McDonald House. “When you look around the state at the many nonprofit organizations, educational institutions or community support networks, a common thread for so many is the support and association with the J.R. Simplot Co.”
Michael Boss is a Treasure Valley-based freelance writer.

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