The concept of “community” is something that has been envisioned since U.S. Sugar’s inception in 1931. Our company’s founder, Charles Stewart Mott, would often say, “if we take care of our community, we take care of our company.” Since those early days, U.S. Sugar’s support for both our employees and our local residents has been inextricably linked, and Mr. Mott’s words hold true today.
When the early impact of COVID-19 began to be felt, there was never a question of how the people of U.S. Sugar would respond. Yes, “critical infrastructure” activities such as sugarcane harvesting and transporting, sugar manufacturing and refining, and vegetable harvesting would continue, but our support for our local communities would also increase.
In mid-March, we began securing the supplies we knew would be needed by local hospitals, first responders, and elderly health centers. We leaned on suppliers that normal provide equipment and supplies for our employees to help us find hand sanitizer, N95 masks, bottled water, and other critical needs for our communities. We also worked closely with our independent growers – which would normally be sending fresh food such as green beans and sweet corn to restaurants – to redirect those shipments to local community organizations such as food banks, churches and schools. Everywhere we delivered these supplies, we were overwhelmed by the demand, but also the gratitude we received.
We used our partners within the food service industry, such as Duda Fresh Farm Foods, Pioneer Growers, and Cheney Brothers, to tell us what food and delivery options were available to ensure it would be delivered to the people and the places where it was needed most.
Over the last several weeks, we have continued to prioritize our local and coastal neighboring communities, to help ensure the compassion and understanding of our people can be felt far and wide. Here is an overview of our COVID-19 efforts to date.
- Provided nearly 12,000 creates of locally-grown Florida sweet corn to residents in Punta Gorda, Fort Myers, Naples, LaBelle, Moore Haven, Buckhead Ridge, Ortona, Clewiston, Montura Ranches, Pioneer, South Bay, Belle Glades, Pahokee, Wellington, Royal Palm Beach, Greenacres, Indiantown and Stuart. These donations were made possible in cooperation with Duda Fresh Farm Foods, Pioneer Growers, Cheney Brothers, Naples Board of Realtors, Harry Chapin Food Bank, United Way of Palm Beach County, and Boys and Girls Club of Indiantown, Project LIFT in Martin County and dozens of other local community organizations.
- Joined Florida Crystals and the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative in the “Neighbors Feeding Neighbors” program to provide Glades residents with 17,500 hot meals from local, Glades-area restaurants over several weeks (nearly 600 meals per day)
- Provided 15,000 N95 medical masks to our local hospitals and first responders, including the Clewiston Fire Department, Hendry Regional Medical Center in Clewiston and Lakeside Medical Center in Belle Glade as well as Glades-area doctors offices
- Provided more than 1,200 bottles of water and premium Florida orange juice to Moore Haven residents through partnership with local food bank
- Donated nearly 1,000 crates of fresh, locally-grown green beans (120,000 servings) to employees, food banks, churches and healthcare centers in Lee, Glades, Hendry, Palm Beach and Martin Counties. The green beans were donated to:
- Christ Central Church (LaBelle, Florida)
- Friendship Baptist Church (Harlem, Florida)
- Florida Community Health Center (Clewiston, Florida)
- Hendry Regional Medical Center (Clewiston, Florida)
- St. Margaret Parish (Clewiston, Florida)
- First United Methodist Church (Clewiston, Florida)
- The Glades Initiative (Belle Glade, Florida)
- Palm Beach County Food Bank (Lantana, Florida)
- Holy Cross Catholic Church (Indiantown, Florida)
- Community Cooperative (Ft. Myers, Florida)
- Provided 1,200 containers of sugarcane-based hand sanitizer from a local distillery and U.S. Sugar partner to Glades-area nursing homes, senior centers, first responders and our essential food supply employees. Organizations receiving the hand sanitizer include:
- Oakbrook Health and Rehabilitation Center in LaBelle
- Clewiston Nursing and Rehabilitation Center
- Quiet Waters Senior Living and West County Senior Center in Belle Glade
- Glades Healthcare Center in Pahokee.
- Ferd & Gladys Alpert Jewish Family Service of Palm Beach County
- Provided 2,000 pounds of meat and premium Florida orange juice to more than 250 U.S. Sugar employees and their families
- Today and throughout this crisis, our 2,500 employees continue to grow, harvest and process safe, reliable food right here in Florida for our neighbors and fellow Americans
As the pandemic continues to impact almost every aspect of our lives, our commitment to our communities will never waver. The extraordinary people of U.S. Sugar recognize that service to our communities must continue as it always has.
Community Relations Manager
A graduate of Lehigh University with a degree in environmental science, Mr. Thomas brings with him an extensive background in community and relationship building. A native of The Belle Glade Community, Mr. Thomas has deep roots in both Palm Beach and Hendry County. His diverse professional experiences encompass positions such as Collegiate Football Coach and Director of Business Development. Currently, he serves on the local boards of the Clewiston Chamber, Hendry County Economic Development Council, and Glades Boys and Girls club.