What began in 2015 as an effort to provide healthy food to underserved children in Atlanta, has blossomed into a deep and multi-faceted relationship between Cigna and a local school.
Cigna tapped Atlanta’s Super Bowl excitement in February for its latest step in helping Humphries Elementary School, which is located in a low socio-economic community in the Atlanta metro area. Working with NFL Legends and others, Cigna co-sponsored a “Bowling for Humphries” Fundraiser hosted by Takeo Spikes. The charity match was a huge success, generating nearly $100,000 for the school (much of which will buy laptops for students).
The 325 students at Humphries live in low socio-economic households. Twenty percent of the families bring in no more than $10,000 a year, and half earn less than $25,000.1
Cigna's relationship with the students, faculty, and staff of Humphries began in 2015, recalls Rich Novack, the Atlanta-based vice president for U.S. Markets. Cigna is a sponsor of the nationwide program “Blessings in a Backpack” (which provides healthy foods for students), and the organization identified Humphries as an area school needing help. When Novack went there, he was immediately struck by the children’s politeness. One held a door open for the visitors, and another greeted him with “good morning, sir.”
The principal, Melanie Mitchell, mentioned that the school was losing an $8,000 grant to provide gifts for students who miss few or no days of school. “I didn’t hesitate,” Novack says. “I guaranteed $8,000, even though I wasn’t sure how I’d get it.”
He soon raised $2,000 from Cigna workers, another $2,000 from company managers, and $4,000 from the company itself. It launched a relationship that would keep growing.
In 2016, Novack asked Mitchell what the students needed most that year. Mitchell replied, “New socks and underwear.” So the Cigna team gathered 1,200 pairs of socks and underwear and presented them during a visit by David Cordani, president and CEO of Cigna.
Cigna’s participation with Humphries Elementary has only increased. Over the years, they have helped organize the annual fall festival, volunteered for the school’s Career Day for kindergarten through 5th grade students, mentored students, and even helped establish a “Girls on the Run” program with the school to build girls’ self-confidence.
Most recently during Super Bowl week, Cigna also partnered with Vincent Country, a charitable organization founded by NFL executive vice president and former player Troy Vincent, to host a fun-filled Safe Zone Activity Day to encourage students to be active, featuring football drills, jump rope and dance parties, as well as the debut performance of a new spirit squad sporting uniforms donated by Cigna.
So many Cigna employees volunteer on a regular basis for events at Humphries, Novack says, that at times he must ask some to wait for a later opportunity.
Mitchell says Cigna’s involvement is invaluable to her school. “Cigna has been there from A to Z,” she says, “With time, talent, and money. The main benefit is knowing we have someone behind us, for whatever we need.”
“They have become a major part of our school,” she says. “Public schools have limited resources, so it’s important to have partnerships with businesses. Students can see possibilities and be enriched, even at the elementary level.”
Helen Glenn, Cigna's director of client engagement who serves as the point person with Humphries, says Cigna employees get plenty in return: “When I walk through those halls, the kids always greet me and remember me with sincere smiles and hugs. Giving of your time and befriending these kids is priceless –they make me feel like I have won the lottery.”
Novack says any corporations contemplating similar efforts should jump in. “We’re part of the fabric of the community,” he says, “And within that community are people and places that sometimes need assistance. They want to know that they can work hard and lift themselves up. We want to be part of that, initiate that.”
In short, he says, “We want to be there to help.”
To learn more, visit Bowling for Humphries.