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Planting seeds

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By Marion P. Blackburn

It supported the purchase of medical equipment in Belhaven, an arts center in Williamston and public radio broadcasts originating in New Bern.

Funding for those projects was from among $615,000 granted to North Carolina agencies last year by the Weyerhaeuser Company Foundation, including more than $200,000 to the towns and hamlets of eastern North Carolina where the forest-products company has long been an industry mainstay.

Since 2000, the foundation has contributed about $909,000 to communities throughout the region.

Through its foundation, the timber-industry giant distributes about $10 million each year in the U.S. to schools, hospitals, civic organizations and programs.

“It’s part of being a good corporate citizen, part of making our community a better place to work and live in,” says Robert Green, vice president and mill manager of the New Bern Cellulose Products plant. “Our goals are to make as big a difference as we can in the community.”

Located at corporate headquarters in Federal Way, Wash., the Weyerhaeuser Company Foundation was established in 1948 to serve the places Weyerhaeuser employees call home.

The foundation makes grants through local advisory committees made up of company employees who, familiar with their areas, determine how to distribute funding in their own communities.

As the state’s largest Weyerhaeuser site, the Plymouth Pulp, Paper and Packaging Mill has its own advisory committee. Grant review committees also operate in New Bern, Ayden, Charlotte, Raleigh, Greensboro, Lumberton, Elkin and Newton.

“Our presence is dictated by where we, as a company, have a business presence,” says Elizabeth A. Crossman, foundation president. “We are very involved in North Carolina.”

The foundation receives thousands of requests each year, with about 2,000 of them approved for funding, she says.

Recent grants include support for a performance of “Elizabeth R” during the Town of Bath’s Tri-Centennial and, last December, $35,000 to Children’s Hospital in Greenville, part of University Health Systems of Eastern Carolina.

The grant, one of the foundation’s largest ever, will help fund a new intensive care unit.

The foundation also responds to crisis, including relief efforts after hurricanes Isabel in 2003 and Floyd in 1999, which caused devastating floods in the east.

When about 90 employees lost their homes in the deluge left by Hurricane Floyd, the foundation was ready to help, Crossman says.

In addition to providing foundation funds, Weyerhaeuser employees also contributed to flood victims.

“It was an amazing realization of what people will do when they recognize there is a need,” she says “It wasn’t about money, it was people connecting with people.”

Weyerhaueser, which was founded in 1900 and has annual sales of $19.9 billion, operates mills in Plymouth, New Bern and Ayden and contracts with many local hauling and logging companies, many of them family-owned.

The firm employs about 55,000 people in 18 countries, with 18 locations in North Carolina and has ranked in the Fortune 200 since 1956.

The foundation generally awards grants in communities in which Weyerhaeuser has a significant presence, and considers applications from organizations up to 50 miles from its locations. Selected programs related to the forest products industry may also be eligible.

Applications are accepted and reviewed throughout the year. Applications submitted in September or later may not be considered until the following year.

In general, funding decisions require 30 to 90 days.

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