By: Aubrey Thomson, NWI.LIFE
Last Updated: April 23, 2021
As a company that provides a utility that is vital to supporting the well-being of its communities, Indiana American Water (IAW) serves its communities with an attitude of responsibility and generosity. Wanting employees to engage with and volunteer in its communities, American Water created the American Water Charitable Foundation to encourage IAW and other American Water companies to get involved in bettering its communities.
“We encourage people to get involved both financially and with their time,” said IAW External Affairs Manager Joe Loughmiller. “The American Water Charitable Foundation matches employee donations up to $1,000 per year for any non-profit organization. If you don’t donate your money, you can also donate your time, and the foundation will actually make a donation that matches those hours as well.”
The charitable foundation and the company culture have propelled employees to plug into their communities through several non-profits and projects. These include Habitat for Humanity, Salvation Army, Save the Dunes, Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana, Meals on Wheels of Northwest Indiana, and more.
IAW has a long-running relationship with Meals on Wheels of Northwest Indiana and makes a general contribution every year. This was particularly important last year as the need for food increased. In 2020, IAW also began assisting low-income customers in Gary, Terre Haute, and Muncie. More people than in previous years struggled with finances in the face of the pandemic, so IAW helped them pay the bill to keep their water turned on.
Similarly, IAW has been involved with Boys & Girls Clubs of Northwest Indiana for years on both a company and individual employee basis. This relationship brought the lack of space at South Haven Boys & Girls Club to IAW’s attention and gave IAW staff the opportunity to make a significant contribution to alleviate that issue.
“We had an old tank that we no longer needed, and it was right next to the Boys & Girls Club in South Haven,” Loughmiller said. “We took that tank down, and we actually donated that land to them. It really gives them the ability to expand. They were sort of landlocked at that location. This allows them to expand and do some outdoor activities, which I know they wanted to do. They were very happy to get that land.”
As a prominent water utility company in Indiana, IAW has a definite interest in and commitment to high water quality, environmental sustainability, and access. Each year, IAW brings a water trailer with them to Hobart’s Clean Water Festival where employees give out free water in reusable plastic water bottles and talk to people about water safety and quality.
IAW began its Environmental Grant Program in 2007, which helps it treat whatever water goes into its system, and consequently into people’s bodies. It also fosters good environmental stewardship, and IAW has invested nearly $160,000 into the environment through those grants.
One relationship that stands at the forefront of bridging the gap between water access and the community is IAW’s relationship with local fire departments.
“When you think of a water utility, you think of our priority as a company as safety. Nothing embodies that more than our fire departments that literally put their lives on the line to go in and save our community,” said IAW Major Account Manager Justin Mount. “We talk to our fire departments and have that ongoing relationship to try and make sure we do what we do in order to ensure they can do what they need to do to ensure our safety. Having that relationship is important. The thing with our Fire Department Saftey Grants is that those are just small tokens of appreciation for what they do to keep our communities safe.”
So far in 2021, IAW has awarded Fire Department Grants to Chesterton, Hobart, Merrillville, Portage, Gary, Lake Station, and Burns Harbor. IAW and Indiana fire departments depend on each other – IAW puts water infrastructure into place, ensures water mains are big enough for the flow needed to fight fires, and keeps fire hydrants in good working order. If fire departments need more water pressure or capacity, IAW is a phone call away. Loughmiller noted how critical IAW’s relationships with fire departments are for the safety of its communities.
“These guys and gals are heroes. They’re out there doing hard work, so we do what we can to support them,” said Mount. “We do fire department grants really just to help them as they are often stretched for dollars, whether that’s training or equipment; we do like to help them out when we can.”
All of these means through which IAW serves its communities are in addition to its employees’ daily efforts to provide the public with clean, running water.
“It’s important to note all the hard workers we have in Northwest Indiana,” Mount said. “There are times like when it’s snowing during the polar vortex and there is someone out at 2 a.m., knee-deep in water, making sure people have water going to their homes so folks getting up in the morning can take a shower. The same token applies to the middle of the heat of summer. We place pipes and other things to make sure we continue to have access to clean drinking water. We have dedicated workers who make sure these things are not an issue.”
To learn more about Indiana American Water, visit https://www.amwater.com/inaw/.