A Publication of WTVP

The term "giving back" is often cited when corporate leaders are asked why they dedicate the time and resources of their companies to support local organizations and nonprofits. It's a way for successful companies to share the benefits with the community.

At Ameren Illinois, we also realize that our company is only as strong as the communities where our employees live and work, and where our 1.2 million customers call home. Nonprofit organizations are the fabric that connects people in need to the services that can meet those needs. With government budget constraints, many of these organizations are relying on the generosity of the business community now more than ever.

It would be all too easy to simply spread dollars throughout the community without paying attention to who is putting those funds to the best use. That's why we approach the business of charitable giving like a business. We're investing in the future of the region, and therefore we work with organizations that can deliver a return on that investment: to the constituents they serve and to the community as a whole.

Last year, Ameren Illinois invested more than $3.2 million in hundreds of organizations throughout a 1,200-community territory that stretches from LaSalle-Peru in the north to the Kentucky border in the south. Our employees also volunteered their time and talents, whether building wheelchair ramps for veterans, preparing meals for local food pantries, collecting Christmas toys, or organizing their own events to raise money for their favorite charitable causes.

Here in the Peoria area, we're fortunate to have a stable of strong nonprofit organizations that demonstrate year over year that they can deliver for those who need help the most. The Center for Prevention of Abuse, Easterseals, George Washington Carver Center, St. Jude, Dream Center Peoria, Neighborhood House, Children's Home and the Minority Business Development Center are among the many local organizations whose missions align with Ameren Illinois' values. These organizations are led by passionate executive directors who are careful stewards of their limited resources.

Over the last several years, I have made it a point to attend our company-sponsored customer outreach events. The main purpose of these events is to provide income-qualified customers with grants to help them catch up on their utility bills. But it's about more than just the money. It's about taking time to listen to their concerns. It's about showing them easy steps they can take to save energy at home. Our hope is that the assistance we provide will free up income these customers can use to pay for other essentials, such as food, medicine and child care.

This summer, we'll be working with Low Income Home Energy Assistance Programs (LIHEAP) through the Peoria Citizens Committee for Economic Opportunity (PCCEO) to donate air conditioners to people in need, including the elderly and customers with young children. This program isn't only about helping residents in need to stay cool—it's also about potentially saving lives. Since 2013, we have distributed 2,100 air conditioners in central and southern Illinois. We appreciate Peoria Magazines for shining a light on the needs of local nonprofit service providers. I encourage all business leaders to make the business of corporate giving a part of your strategic business plans. iBi

Richard J. Mark is chairman and president of Ameren Illinois.