Giving Back in Idaho: 3 Companies Show How to Lead the Way

While Idaho is perhaps best known for its potatoes, there is so much more to the Gem State, including its scenic mountain landscapes, miles of protected wilderness, and outdoor recreation areas. During the gold rush of the mid-1800s, miners found gold, copper, and lead in Idaho, earning Idaho its nickname. After becoming a state in 1890, the economy in Idaho shifted from mining towards agriculture, and other key industries in the state are tourism, advanced manufacturing, aerospace, computer technology and innovation, energy, food production, and recreation technology. 

Idaho covers 83,568 square miles, but has a population of only 1,787,065, giving everyone plenty of room to spread out. And while Idaho isn’t well-known for big businesses or for charitable giving, there are some real standouts in both in this Rocky Mountain state. Through targeted giving, several local companies and their charitable foundations are improving Idaho – enough so for it to be ranked the #5 state to live and work in, according to U.S. News & World Report.

  1. J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation

In 1939, Joe Albertson and his wife Kathryn founded the first Albertsons Grocery Store in Boise, where the company is still headquartered. That first store was a modern marvel, with free parking, a money-back guarantee, and an ice cream shop. Joe had previously worked his way up the ranks with Safeway but had plenty of his own ideas on how to build and manage a grocery store. 

Now, Albertsons Companies, Inc. is the second-largest supermarket chain in North America after Kroger, with 2,253 stores and 325,000 employees. From the start, Joe Albertson was focused on growth, and often drove around neighborhoods looking for station wagons and children’s clothes on the clotheslines – those were the kinds of towns he wanted to serve with his grocery stores.

Joe passed away in 1993, and Kathryn in 2002, but not before leaving a legacy as philanthropist. Per their website, the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation (JKAF) is “committed to making Idaho an exemplary model for innovative learning, a destination for accessible world-class recreation, and the most desirable state for life after the military.” 

With giving focused on Learning, Community, and Leadership, JKAF has impacted 29 schools, creating 11,800 school seats for children, and gifted 21 new school fellowships to educational leaders in Idaho. They have also given 189 grants to Challenged Athletes Foundation athletes and created 4 innovative public parks that make recreational opportunities accessible to everyone. They created Mission43 to provide servicemen, women, and military spouses opportunities to succeed in Idaho after the military through the pillars of education, employment, and engagement. This has helped 1,036 veterans obtain employment in Idaho with an average starting salary of $51,896.

  1. Melaleuca

Frank VanderSloot founded Melaleuca: The Wellness Company in 1985 in Idaho Falls, where the company is still headquartered. With over 400 health and wellness products spanning personal care, cleaning, supplements, essential oils, and more, Melaleuca ships trusted products to millions of homes around the world.

VanderSloot is well-known as a successful entrepreneur and philanthropist. In 2001, the Melaleuca Foundation was born, and since then has raised millions of dollars, donated millions of Melaleuca products, collected thousands of tons of food, and provided supplies and additional aid to families in need across the globe.

With six areas of focus, the Melaleuca Foundation aims its charitable giving at an orphanage in Ecuador, natural disaster relief, feeding the hungry, honoring America’s heroes, improving education, and providing humanitarian aid. The Foundation is well-known for making donations that allow charities to reach their donation goals, including paying off the mortgage of the Community Food Basket, which supports 22 food pantries as southeast Idaho’s primary food storage facility.

  1. Hawkins Companies

Gary Hawkins began developing commercial real estate in 1976, focusing on retail shopping center development. Since then, Hawkins Companies has partnered with over 400 clients and completed more than 300 projects, spanning 28 states. They’ve developed 13.3 million square feet of property, and currently manage 4.4 million square feet of commercial property. With their main office in Boise, this Idaho company encourages company-wide philanthropy through volunteering, donating, and sponsorships.

Hawkins Companies has sponsored a wide variety of community outreach programs, including those that improve city parks, increase veteran supportive housing, provide transportation services to seniors, boost youth mentorship programs, support animal adoption programs, donate to cancer survivors, provide books to low-income children, encourage outdoor activities, and fill backpacks for kids in need.

Idahoans are well-known for being warm and welcoming, making them great neighbors. Companies founded and headquartered in Idaho bring that same kind spirit to the communities in which they live and work – and these are only three impressive examples.

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