August 01, 2011
Stream Energy and Ignite: Stream of Conscientiousness
by Brittany Glenn
From supporting homeless children to helping low-income families pay their energy bills, Stream Energy is meeting the needs of people where they are.
From the earthquake and tsunami in Japan to the devastation of Greece’s economy to the unrest in the Middle East, the world today is in a lot of pain. But one need not look abroad to find suffering: there are families and children in need here in America.
One company acutely aware of this fact is Stream Energy and its network marketing arm, Ignite. A U.S. company, Stream Energy is lending a helping hand to the poorest citizens right in its own backyard through its ongoing charitable support program called “A Big Difference Starts Small.”
Stream Energy focuses its charitable giving efforts on two underpriveleged groups: homeless children and low-income families who need help paying their energy bills due to job loss, poverty and other hardships.
“Network marketing traditionally identifies itself as a people-helping-people business, and at Stream Energy we think it’s important to put our money where our mouth is,” says Paul Thies, Senior Director of Communications at Stream Energy. “We’ve been very fortunate in the success that we have seen, and we feel there’s a responsibility to give back to our brothers and sisters who need it the most—and homeless children were top of mind. We also feel strongly about giving to low-income families who need some assistance paying their energy bills.”
Stream Energy sells energy products—electricity and natural gas—in Georgia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Texas. The company, headquartered in Dallas, supports charities in all four of the states in which it does business.
“Because of our network marketing model we have associates in each jurisdiction, and we think it’s important for them to see that we support these types of efforts, not in just our home territory of Texas but also in their markets,” says Stream Energy Chairman Rob Snyder.
Giving Hope a Helping Hand
According to the United States Conference of Mayors’ annual Hunger and Homelessness Survey (December 2010), across the nation’s largest cities an average of 27 percent of homeless people needing assistance during the last year did not receive it. Emergency shelters in 64 percent of the survey cities turned away families with children because no beds were available for them.
In North Texas, the statistics were just as dire. A 2010 census of Dallas County’s homeless showed that women and children made up 47 percent of the known homeless population. On any given night in North Texas, more than 1,100 children fell asleep in homeless and domestic violence shelters. Additionally, 66 percent were under the age of 9 and 31 percent were infants and toddlers under age 3.
These statistics motivated Stream Energy to make contact with Captain Hope’s Kids (www.captainhope. org), a nonprofit agency based in Dallas whose mission is to meet the critical needs of homeless children. It is the only agency that actively solicits donations and funds for the sole purpose of providing supplies to homeless children throughout the North Texas region. Captain Hope’s Kids touches the lives of more than 40,000 homeless children every year, with the help of Stream Energy and its employees and associates.
“It’s been a blessing to be involved with Captain Hope’s Kids,” Thies says. “The nonprofit organization was initially brought to our attention by one of our employees, Curchara Jones. We’ve done a number of things for Captain Hope’s Kids since they’re right here in Dallas where our corporate headquarters are.”
Snyder says of the organization, “We thought it was absolutely a terrific cause. We have a committee here in-house that is in charge of the company’s charitable efforts. When they looked at the scope of charities out there, considering both need and merit, Captain Hope’s Kids was at the top of the list.”
Captain Hope’s Kids provides life’s necessities for the most vulnerable of the homeless—babies and toddlers. An impressive 92 percent of funds received by the organization are applied to programs.
“Captain Hope’s Kids works with 40 agencies around the metroplex to provide all sorts of life essentials to homeless children,” Thies says. “That population is probably the most distressed population in our community. Who is more deserving of assistance than homeless children? Our efforts started with a toy drive that was pretty successful. We coupled that with a diaper drive. Last year, our employees donated more than 46,000 diapers. We’re told that allowed Captain Hope’s Kids to help over 6,000 homeless children, supplying four shelters with diapers.”
From left to right are Brad Boss, CHK Program Director; Jeanne Reyer, CHK Executive Director; Rob Snyder, Stream Energy Chairman and Co-Founder; Brenda Cannon, CHK Development Director; and Mark Steele, CHK Board Member.
Providing Comprehensive Support
Through the years, Stream Energy employees have donated much of their time and energy to the cause of Captain Hope’s Kids, supporting them in many ways, including toy drives, diaper drives, a license plate fundraiser and special events such as an Easter egg hunt and a fireworks show dedicated to spreading the organization’s message.
“Last year, we sponsored the WFAA-TV fireworks spectacular for the Big D NYE New Year’s bash in Victory Park,” Thies says. “More than 35,000 people attended, and half a million viewers tuned in to watch. As part of that sponsorship, WFAA provided us with commercial airtime. Rather than use those commercials to promote our energy services, we opted instead to use that airtime to feature the work done by Captain Hope’s Kids. Our message was ‘during this holiday season don’t make a resolution, make a difference.’ ”
At Ignite’s annual conference, Ignition, the company set up a Captain Hope’s Kids booth where Ignite associates made donations. “Stream Energy matched the individual donations made by Ignite associates,” Thies says. “As a result, together we provided more than $17,000 in cash donations to Captain Hope’s Kids.”
Captain Hope’s Kids is equally enthusiastic about the partnership. In 2010, the organization named Stream Energy Community Partner of the Year, and at the Ignition conference, Snyder was presented with a plaque of appreciation by Jeanne Reyer, Executive Director of Captain Hope’s Kids. Thies was also named a member of the organization’s board of directors.
“Stream Energy exemplifies the concept of corporate responsibility,” Reyer says. “It seems Stream is always looking for ways to better the community. They don’t wait for someone else to step up. They take the lead. We experienced that firsthand at the conference. It was amazing to talk to a group of people who were all of one mind that was focused on giving back. Our good fortune started at the top, and the giving didn’t stop.”
According to Reyer, Stream Energy makes a point to invest in social change for the betterment of local communities, like the ones her agency serves. “Stream Energy identifies with issues and invests in organizations that are effectively addressing these issues,” she adds. “In the case of Captain Hope’s Kids, the result is an improvement in the community and in the lives of those who will directly impact the future—the children.”
Both Snyder and Thies—along with many of the employees and associates who are part of Stream Energy and Ignite —feel strongly about supporting such a worthy cause.
“Kids in homeless families are very vulnerable and terribly disadvantaged,” Snyder says. “They’re spending their developmental years in relative deprivation. To the extent that we can help ameliorate that, we’re all for it.”
Thies says, “When you’re a child you don’t have a lot of control over your life. When you throw homelessness into that equation, what should be your carefree years are filled with fear and uncertainty. Homelessness is scary, but for a child that must be a very terrible burden to carry—the total lack of control. It’s a very daunting issue, and it’s one that we, as an organization, feel very passionate about.”
Addressing Energy Poverty
But Stream Energy’s charitable efforts are not just focused on its home state of Texas. “We also provide energy service in Georgia, Maryland and Pennsylvania,” Thies says. “Out of respect for our customers in those states—and to demonstrate our goodwill as community partners—we’ve made donations to the Fuel Fund in Maryland, the Utility Emergency Services Fund in Pennsylvania, and the Heating Energy Assistance Team (H.E.A.T.) in Georgia. We felt it was important to support communities there as well.”
One of the benefits of selling energy is that it is so essential to everyone’s life—but this very fact makes energy poverty all the more debilitating.
“In a down economy, you’re more likely to cancel your gym membership than you are to not pay your energy bill,” Thies says. “However, energy bills tend to be a sizable portion of someone’s household budget. We donate to these energy assistance funds and then they help low-income families pay their energy bills, regardless of who their provider is.”
Snyder adds, “We’re in the business of selling power. To the extent that customers in the jurisdictions in which we operate aren’t able to afford power, it’s an issue. So we think it’s important to support those types of charitable organizations that do give consumer assistance in regard to bill payment. We understand that most of the time Stream Energy doesn’t benefit from that.
“At the same time it does send a message to not only our field but also to our customer base that we are involved in their local communities,” Snyder continues. “We realize that people do have problems paying their bills, and we want to make sure there’s a vehicle for them to accommodate that. It’s just one less thing that people have to worry about when they’re under financial distress.”
Janet H. Joseph, Executive Director of Tucker, Ga.-based Heating Energy Assistance Team (H.E.A.T.), explains the issue of energy poverty.
“Low-income families spend as much as 19.5 percent of their annual incomes on energy costs compared to 4.6 percent for median-income households,” Joseph says. “The strain on household budgets often causes unavoidable trade-offs between food and energy—many families have to choose between ‘heating and eating.’ These trade-offs have serious consequences for the health and learning of young children. Additionally, living in a cold home can lead to illness, especially for children and elderly women.”
Joseph says only about one-third of the more than 700,000 Georgia households that would potentially qualify for energy assistance actually receive it; therefore, additional funds are needed to help address this growing issue. Stream Energy is certainly doing its part to help.
“The money that Stream donates to H.E.A.T. helps families avoid the discomfort and consequences of living in a cold home,” Joseph says. “Stream’s support helps families help themselves by giving them the boost they need to get through a difficult time in their lives such as the financial burden of coping with an unexpected illness or the inability to make ends meet due to job loss or limited income.”
Like Reyer, Joseph also believes that Stream Energy has demonstrated that it is committed to improving the lives of families in the communities it serves. “Assisting families with their energy needs helps them remain in their homes and continue to be productive citizens in the community,” Joseph says. “That not only helps families economically but it also helps build healthy communities as well, which is a great example for other companies to follow.”
Despite its impressive charitable giving program, Stream Energy remains humble and aware there is much more to do.
“We are still a young company; we’re just getting started but as we grow we expect that we can—and will—do more,” Thies says. “We’re trying to give where we can and keep the momentum going. The important thing is to just get involved. At least if you’ll take a first step, you can build off of it. That’s the spirit behind our campaign ‘A Big Difference Starts Small.’ We can all do something, and every bit helps.”
Stream Energy’s Charitable Giving
- 2009 Toy Drive for Captain Hope’s Kids netted 1,711 toys.
- 2010 Toy Drive for Captain Hope’s Kids netted 1,834 toys.
- 2010 Diaper Drive for Captain Hope’s Kids netted more than 46,000 diapers.
- 2011 Diaper Drive for Captain Hope’s Kids netted almost 75,000 diapers.
- At Ignition 2011 (annual convention), cash contributions to Captain Hope’s Kids totaled $17,348.
- For 2010, the company was designated by Captain Hope’s Kids as its Community Partner of the Year.
- For the past five years, the company has conducted annual employee blood drives on behalf of Carter BloodCare—the drives combined have collected 303 pints of blood from 327 participants, helping to save as many as 909 lives.
- The company has supported the Heating Energy Assistance Team of Georgia for three years (2008, 2009 and 2010) and has expanded its charitable donation efforts to include cash donations to the Utility Emergency Services Fund based in Philadelphia and the Fuel Fund based in Baltimore.