A successful project at the Smithfield Foods plant in Clinton reaped benefits not only for the company and the environment, but for abused children of Sampson County.
In August, Smithfield held its annual Environmental and Sustainability Excellence Awards program, recognizing the outstanding facility initiatives that occurred in 2015. Ten facilities and one individual were awarded during this year’s program, including locations in five states and Mexico.
Under the leadership of Rick Bowen, environmental manager for the Smithfield Clinton plant, the plant partnered with Polytech, a wastewater treatment polymer vendor, to install a three-part polymer system to decrease water pollution — it netted over $300,000 in savings.
“We partnered with this other company and saved a bunch of money,” Bowen stated. “We changed the chemistry of our wastewater. It took about six to eight months to implement and saved us about $330,000. It cleaned up the water tremendously.”
In all, projects helped Smithfield save more than 327 million gallons of water, more than 18 million kilowatts of electricity and more than 9 million dekatherms of natural gas, while reducing more than 40 million pounds of solid waste generation in 2015, according to the company.
“Our dedicated facilities and people continue to spark influential change across the company,” said Stewart Leeth, vice president of regulatory affairs and chief sustainability officer for Smithfield. “Their efforts exemplify the innovative approach behind Smithfield’s sustainability program and make us leaders in our industry.”
Additionally, the company gave over 5,500 volunteer hours to charitable causes. Charity was at the heart of the recent awards program too.
As a recipient of an Environmental and Sustainability Excellence Award, Bowen received $5,000 — $2,000 for him as the team member who coordinated the project, and $3,000 to a charity of his choice.
He and wife Lisa Bowen, also a Smithfield employee, chose the Sampson County Child Advocacy Center (CAC). They recently presented Shannon Blanchard, director of the center, with the check, surrounded by members of the multidisciplinary team (MDT) that investigates child abuse cases. The money will go toward the CAC’s ongoing goal of moving into a new facility.
“We are still talking with potential partners for making a more permanent location for the CAC,” Blanchard said. “We are hoping by the beginning of 2017 that this location will be more of a reality for us.”
She said she was grateful for Sampson County Department of Social Services for allowing the CAC to use space in the DSS building. However, a another location will allow the CAC to grow.
“We will be able to look at hiring additional staff, extending services offered and becoming nationally accredited in order to open up additional funding opportunities,” Blanchard pointed out.
She said every bit of help the center can get to achieve that is immensely appreciated, including the gift from the Bowens.
“There are CAC needs for general funds that our grant funding sources will not cover. Any donations made to the center have been used in this general fund to cover expenses not covered by any other funding source,” Blanchard explained.
Both Lisa and Rick attended one of the first meetings of the Child Advocacy Center steering committee, when Blanchard and others, health officials with DSS and law enforcement among them, spoke about the importance of establishing such a facility locally.
They talked about the trauma a young victim of abuse suffers when going through an ordeal, and how that turmoil is compounded when that child has to relive those experiences to multiple strangers and does not have a place to go where people care, listen and provide the reassurance needed to get them through difficult times.
The Child Advocacy Center is a neutral place that offers a safe haven for children, while allowing the MDT of law enforcement investigators, school officials, Social Services, medical professionals and others to more effectively serve the child. In recent months, a number of arrests have been made of alleged offenders due to the CAC’s collaboration with law enforcement.
The Bowens realize the critical role the CAC plays in ensuring children are protected.
“We have been speaking to them for a couple years now, as far as giving a contribution,” said Lisa. “With this award, it gave us an opportunity to do that.”
“What stuck out in my mind is the number of kids affected by abuse,” Rick added. “We just wanted to figure out some good way of spending the money.”
Blanchard is glad that they chose the Sampson County CAC.
“We are very thankful to have the support of the community,” she said, “and appreciative that Smithfield staff recognize the need for this service in Sampson County.”
Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.