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Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI), a national gear and apparel retail cooperative, has dedicated a significant portion of its annual giving budget in support of local and national nonprofits that share the company’s commitment to increase youth participation in outdoor recreation and the conservation of shared outdoor spaces.
To date, the co-op is approaching the distribution of $2 million of its annual giving budget of $3.7 million. REI expects this funding will help support approximately 400 nonprofits in the country, of which a majority will be youth-oriented organizations.
â€œGiving back to our communities has always been a significant part of our rich history as a co-op,â€ said David Jayo, REI’s corporate giving program manager. â€œAs we celebrate our 70th anniversary, we are proud to continue that tradition and partner with many wonderful organizations making a positive impact in the lives of hundreds of thousands of young people. Nonprofits play an important part in getting people active, outdoors and caring for the shared places we all enjoy.â€
Examples of youth-related organizations receiving an REI grant in 2008 include:
Big City Mountaineers (San Leandro, Calif.) â€“ $25,000 grant to get teenagers involved in the nonprofit’s Teen Leadership Employment Program.
Passages Northwest (Seattle, Wash.) â€“ $15,000 grant to fund Girls Rock!, a climbing and mentoring program for girls from diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds in middle and high school.
Student Conservation Association (Oakland, Calif. and Washington, D.C.) â€“ $20,000 grant to the Get Outdoors and Learn program to reach elementary and middle school children in hands-on environmental education in local parks.
Alpino Mountain Sports Foundation (Denver, Colo.) â€“ $10,000 grant in cooperation with Denver Public School’s Balarat Outdoor Educations Center, to provide underserved fifth and sixth graders introductory skiing and snowboarding experiences.
Because REI employees have the most direct connection with nonprofits that share the company’s stewardship commitment in their communities, they play an instrumental role in nominating potential grantees.
A number of successful nonprofit partnerships begin on a local level through employee volunteerism, and are expanded with financial support of the nonprofit’s work. Examples of increased funding to nonprofits with youth-oriented programs include:
Appalachian Mountain Club â€“ $20,000 grant to lead teenagers in exploring parks and remote areas. Active in 12 Northeast states, the nonprofit also received $5,000 in gear to support its â€œlending library,â€ which provides youth with borrowed gear and apparel for their outdoor adventures.
Children & Nature Network â€“ $50,000 grant will support the nonprofit’s Nature Clubs for Families outreach project that aims to reach 15,000 children through inspiration, guidance and tools for parents and caregivers in nature-based outdoor activities.
Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics â€“ $25,000 grant to the Connect Grants program to create new partnerships for stewardship education with organizations serving predominantly Latino, African American, Native American and Asian American youth. An additional $15,000 was provided to support training material development and outreach efforts for the Promoting Environmental Awareness in Kids (PEAK) program, which educated more than 142,000 children last year. This program was launched in partnership with REI in 2002.
REI’s annual giving program is a balance of national and regional nonprofits, many of which have been in partnership with the co-op for many years. Examples of continued national partnerships include The Access Fund, American Hiking Society and Adventure Cycling Association. Continued local and regional partnerships include the Washington Trails Association and Continental Divide Trail Alliance.
Since 1976, the company has provided nearly $27 million to nonprofit organizations. REI’s annual giving budget represents approximately three percent of the previous year’s operating profits, and is approved by the co-op’s board of directors. Because its giving efforts rely on the nomination of nonprofits by its employees, REI does not accept unsolicited grant requests and proposals.
REI is a national outdoor retail co-op dedicated to inspiring, educating and outfitting its members and the community for a lifetime of outdoor adventure and stewardship. Founded in 1938 by a group of Pacific Northwest mountaineers seeking quality equipment, REI operates retail stores nationwide, two online stores â€“ http://www.rei.com and http://www.REI-OUTLET.com â€“ and an adventure travel company, REI Adventures. REI offers products from all of the top brands for camping, climbing, cycling, fitness, hiking, paddling, snow sports and travel, including its own line of award-winning outdoor gear and apparel. While anyone may join or shop at REI, members pay a one-time $20 fee and receive a share in the company’s profits through an annual member refund based on their purchases. As an active supporter of the communities in which it does business, REI is committed to promoting environmental stewardship and increasing access to outdoor recreation through education, volunteerism, gear donations and financial contributions.