American Electric Power and American Electric Power Foundation have been champions of efforts to make the central Ohio community stronger for many years. They were key partners in helping transform the downtown riverfront into a destination with parks and exciting amenities for residents and visitors alike, and have supported a wide range of nonprofit organizations and programs.
Dale Heydlauff, Vice President, Corporate Communications and President of the American Electric Power Foundation, recently provided insights on the company’s philanthropy, and how it involves associates in building a better future for the communities it serves.
Today our entire community enjoys a spectacular riverfront park, Scioto Mile. Why did AEP choose to support this transformative campaign with the City of Columbus and the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation?
American Electric Power has a long tradition of community involvement dating back more than 80 years, when the principles of community service and employee involvement were stated as part of AEP’s corporate creed. AEP, its employees, and the AEP Foundation’s commitment is even more robust today, with an unwavering commitment to be active participants in communities the company serves.
As a member of the Columbus Downtown Development Corporation with headquarters along the Scioto River, AEP welcomed the opportunity to lead the fundraising effort to develop the stretch of land along the river into a green centerpiece to highlight the city’s thriving downtown. I left my day-to-day corporate duties for a year to lead the project’s fundraising initiative, garnering $44 million in public and private dollars to complete the park.
The AEP Foundation became the first major contributor to the Scioto Mile with a $10 million gift, which was matched by the City of Columbus.
The success of the Scioto Mile project was important not only because of AEP’s corporate headquarters’ proximity to the Scioto River, but also because the AEP Foundation believed in the quality of life that public greenspaces add to the vitality of downtown and its surrounding neighborhoods. AEP’s leadership believed Columbus visitors and residents needed easy access to a central city park space to allow families to enjoy all of the city’s attributes. They also were confident the project would be a catalyst to develop the city’s core.
What is the role of corporate philanthropy in building a better Columbus?
The role of corporate philanthropy is critical in building momentum for both public and private support for a multitude of community-based initiatives and programs that build a stronger community and improve life for those who may not live equitably in our society.
Corporations have a responsibility to invest in the communities where they prosper and in turn help the community and its residents thrive. As one of the nation’s largest utilities, AEP’s philanthropy is far reaching.
— Dale Heydlauff, Vice President, Corporate Communications and President of the American Electric Power Foundation
How does AEP support the many communities in which its employees live and work, and how are your associates involved?
AEP and the AEP Foundation supported more than 1,800 community organizations and provided $13.5 million to improve lives during 2015. Over the past ten years, AEP, AEP Ohio, and the AEP Foundation have provided more than $204 million in charitable donations to support education, basic human needs, the environment, healthcare, and arts and culture in central Ohio.
Our associates—from our chief executive officer to engineers to line mechanics to administrative support staff—volunteer with scores of local nonprofit organizations. At our corporate headquarters alone, employees lead 18 unique fundraising activities for causes and campaigns. These campaigns rally together hundreds of employees to give to causes; volunteer in walks and runs; participate in food and clothing drives; and raise awareness among associates to get involved in organizations that AEP supports financially and that change people’s lives.
Additionally, more than 100 AEP leaders offer their time and expertise as trustees on central Ohio boards that include American Red Cross, BalletMet, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Childhood League Center, Children’s Hunger Alliance, Columbus Association for the Performing Arts, Columbus Downtown Development Corporation, Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus Partnership, Columbus State Community College Foundation, Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, Community Shelter Board, Goodwill Columbus, HandsOn Central Ohio, Homeport, I Know I Can, Impact Community Action, King Arts Center, Leadership Columbus, LifeCare Alliance, Lincoln Theatre Association, Mid-Ohio Foodbank, The Salvation Army, United Negro College Fund, United Way of Central Ohio, and Wexner Center for the Arts.
Across all of the AEP communities in 11 states, the company provides a 50 percent match for every dollar employees donate to a local United Way, and matches employee and retiree gifts to educational institutions across the country. AEP created the AEP Emergency Disaster Relief Fund of The Salvation Army as a way to help employees rebuild their lives after suffering a loss during natural disasters. In addition, AEP raises dollars to support relief efforts during both domestic and international disasters, offering a 100 percent match in either corporate or AEP Foundation dollars.
AEP created a fund at The Columbus Foundation to support its giving through the state of Ohio. How will this fund help AEP achieve its philanthropic goals?
In 2014, AEP Ohio created the AEP Ohio Fund of The Columbus Foundation with a $1 million gift. The fund is used to further partner with communities, organizations, and businesses in the AEP Ohio service territory to strengthen and improve communities served. More than $250,000 has been awarded through more than 50 grants to community organizations that include American Association of Blacks in Energy, City Year Columbus, Columbus Zoological Park Association, Down Syndrome Association of Central Ohio, Franklin County Historical Society, Grange Insurance Audubon Center, Inc., March of Dimes, Mount Carmel Health System, Syntero Inc., and Ward Family YMCA.
What are you most excited about for the future of central Ohio and The Spirit of Columbus?
Columbus is truly living up to its aspirations as a smart, open city. It is attracting millennials, people of diverse backgrounds, and major companies that relocate headquarters to the city—like AEP. Companies are growing, attracting new talent domestically and internationally. The city is lively with arts, culture, entertainment, restaurants, sporting events, and offers top-notch educational opportunities from both public and private institutions of higher learning. At the same time, Columbus can still tout it’s a good place to earn a living and raise a family—and in a smart and open city that offers an urban vibe, too. Columbus is truly for all of us.