Generous help from Altria’s Franklin Park staff

(From left) Manager of Plant Operations Tonya Austeri, Youth Attorney Beth Cunningham, and a member of the ACECF Selection Committee.

Generous employees of U.S. Smokeless Tobacco Co. in west suburban Franklin Park have chosen our Youth Futures mobile legal aid clinic to be among 13 non-profits supported with grants this year.

A staff-led committee presented the CCH youth attorney with a $7,000 check Tuesday – a generous grant funded entirely by the local staff who donate personally to the Altria Companies Employee Community Fund (ACECF). 

“I’m so proud of how our employees invest their own money into our communities each year through this fund. Many employees have been with the company for a long time and pride themselves in helping out any way possible.  Last year, Franklin Park raised $75,00 and we were able to increase the donation to $79,000 this year,” said Cecilia Barnes, local ACECF chair. “Every dollar employees gives goes directly to the grants we give each year. It is amazing how ordinary people can do extraordinary things.”

“CCH is honored to be recognized by Altria for our work with homeless youth. Their generous support of the Youth Futures program helps us continue to provide legal assistance to some of the most vulnerable youth,” said Youth Attorney Beth Cunningham.

Beth attended an August 28 reception at the plant, where benefitting agencies were able to meet and thank some of the 250 staff members who supported their work. Last year, CCH was honored by a generous $5,000 grant from USSTC employees.

The ACECF grants support CCH’s mobile outreach to homeless students and unaccompanied youth in Chicago and suburbs, with more than 125 youth legal clients and more than 1,200 youth assisted through outreach each year.

Other benefiting groups included The Night Ministry and La Casa Norte, both of which work closely with the youth clinic and CCH’s No Youth Alone campaign. This year’s recipients were chosen from as far away as downstate Belleville, through a grant to Bethany’s Place, an agency that assists people with HIV.

Altria employees have donated $34 million nationwide since 2000, said Tonya Austeri, director of plant operations. This year’s focus areas for grant requests were domestic violence, homelessness, hunger relief, and senior or youth services, including those with disabilities.

Employees from all levels of the company manage and support ACECF, which is one of the only employee-driven workplace-giving programs to be publicly reported among U.S. companies, per the Changing Our World organization. Since Altria makes a contribution to cover ACECF administrative costs, every employee dollar raised goes directly to supporting local non-profit organizations.

– Anne Bowhay, CCH media