Giving a mile

July 20, 2015 -  By
Ewing staff renovated the backyard of a family with a child with autism. Photo: Ewing Irrigation Products

Ewing staff renovated the backyard of a family with a child with autism. Photo: Ewing Irrigation Products

Whether running for autism or pitching in on pro bono projects, Ewing’s community service has some serious legs.

For years, Phoenix-based Ewing Irrigation Products has made a difference through projects big and small. The company has renovated a baseball field for foster kids and orphans, installed irrigation for people in the military and organized staff to run the Phoenix marathon annually to raise money and awareness for Autism Speaks. When given the chance to help, Ewing takes it, enriching the lives of many, in Arizona and beyond.

Affected by autism

In 2009, Ewing employees ran the P.F. Chang’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon & 1/2 Marathon in Phoenix to raise money for Autism Speaks. It started an annual tradition, one by which Ewing has raised more than $200,000 to date in support of autism research and programming.

Many team members at Ewing Irrigation Products have been affected by autism through friends and family, including Ewing’s leadership. Given that personal connection to autism, it’s no wonder Ewing’s turnout at the 2014 run—nearly 700, including employees and guests—was so high.

Ewing began sponsoring employees and their family members in the race in 2005, first to encourage greater health throughout the company, says Warren Gorowitz, vice president of sustainability for Ewing. But in 2009, the race became a vehicle for fundraising, as well.

Gina Schroeder heard of Ewing’s autism advocacy and, in April 2014, wrote to the company with her own touching autism story. Her story centered on her toddler son with autism and her husband, who worked six days a week.


Graphic: LM Staff

“Her husband spent his day off doing yardwork so that their son had a nice outdoor space to connect with nature,” Gorowitz says. “Gina came to us seeking a solution so her family could spend more time together and her son, Brendan, would have a safe place to play outside.”

Ewing’s Arizona Regional Manager Jake Ray came up with a solution: artificial turf. He got a vendor to donate the artificial turf, and four Ewing employees installed it for free.

“The employees involved with helping Gina and her family had spent some time learning about her through her blog before they even met her,” Gorowitz says. “Because of what they read, they were touched and inspired to get product donated and do the installation for free. The people involved in the installation were able to walk away that day feeling like they really made a difference in this young family’s life.”

Taking PRIDE

Ewing employees also make a difference in the lives of children. In April 2013, 350 Ewing workers helped renovate a baseball field at Sunshine Acres Children’s Home in Mesa, Ariz. Sunshine Acres provides children who are separated from their parents with a safe place to stay. Ewing redid the baseball field, installed drip irrigation and donated $75,000 worth of materials toward the project.

The Sunshine Acres project was what Ewing calls a PRIDE project, an acronym the company uses internally to describe its culture and approach to business. It stands for performance, responsibility, integrity, development and excellence.

“We had been participating in large-scale community service projects for years, mostly in collaboration with other industry organizations,” Gorowitz says. “And we decided to make it our own so we could choose projects that were closely aligned with our core values of water efficiency, sustainability, education and family.”

More than 350 Ewing employees worked on the project to renovate a baseball field at Sunshine Acres in 2013. Photo: Ewing Irrigation Products

More than 350 Ewing employees worked on the project to renovate a baseball field at Sunshine Acres in 2013. Photo: Ewing Irrigation Products

PRIDE projects also give Ewing employees from across the country a chance to collaborate while giving back, Gorowitz adds.
In April 2014, more than 300 Ewing employees gathered at St. Philip the Apostle Catholic School in Dallas, Texas, for another PRIDE project. They were there to renovate a sports field, build a patio that featured lighting and a sound system, and plant garden beds to be used for hands-on classes.

Ewing donated $100,000 in materials for the project, but it’s tough to put a value on the overall project, Gorowitz says. It was a large-scale job that involved several collaborators—including Ewing vendors and customers who donated time, labor and equipment.

“It’s not part of our policy; it’s just a part of our culture,” Gorowitz says. “Our annual PRIDE project is our capstone effort. However, we participate in many service projects as sponsors, materials providers and volunteers across the country each year.”

Ewing workers often immerse themselves independently in stewardship initiatives in their own communities, and many even spearhead projects. The service mindset at Ewing trickles from the top down, beginning with the company’s ownership.

“As much as we do for the communities that we are part of around the country, we also devote the same care and attention to the employees and families that make Ewing 
successful,” Gorowitz says. “We take care of our own, as well, in times of need. We rally as one big family, and (as an employee) you know that you have the support of leadership and your peers, no matter what part of the country they live in.”


About the Author:

Geraci is a freelance writer based in Cleveland. She has worked as a professional journalist for more than 15 years, including six years as a writer for the Chicago Tribune. A graduate of Allegheny College and Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, Geraci began her career as an editor at a newswire service in Washington, D.C., where she edited and distributed press releases from the White House and congressional leaders. She went on to become the community news reporter at the Jackson Hole Guide newspaper, winning two national feature writing awards. Her other experience includes working as a book editor in Chicago and as a professor of business communications at Cleveland State University.

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