Socioeconomic issues aside,Newark also has environmentalissues to tackle. Situatedon the Passaic River and only10 miles outside of Manhattan,the city experienced a 33% increasein the identification of toxicwaste sites between 1996 and 1998.Nearly 4000 vacant lots stand acrossits 24 square miles, the smallest landarea among the 100 most populouscities in the United States. Beyond aestheticconcerns, these abandoned areasalso attract crime. The store that providedemployment or the home thathoused a family have long been torndown and replaced by just anothercrime statistic.
Ten years after the Civil War threatenedto tear apart the United States,Ulysses S. Grant is serving his secondpresidential term. The year is 1875,and Newark is a bustling industrialhub, manufacturing 90% of the nation'sleather in addition to celluloid,iron, carriages, billiard balls, dentures,and beer. It is also the year that JohnFairfield Dryden founds the PrudentialFriendly Society in a downtown basementoffice. Providing industrial insuranceto low-income families, Prudentialwas the first company in the UnitedStates that made life insurance accessibleto the working class.
A longstanding fixture amongNewark's landscape, Prudential Financialdefines community outreach asone of its guiding principles. "Our employeeshave a long history of helpingthose in need," says Arthur F. Ryan,chairman and CEO of Prudential Financial."Each year I've been impressedby the compassion, dedication,and overwhelming sense of communityPrudential employees demonstrate.Now more than ever, the responsibilityfor Corporate America to help ourcommunities in need is critical."
Global Volunteer Day
Prudential has recognized the needsof the Newark community on itsGlobal Volunteer Day for over a decade.Beginning in 1995 with 5000 employeesparticipating in 100 projects,the daylong event has grown to includenearly 250,000 employees, clients, andfriends donating over 1 million volunteerhours to more than 5000 projects.On October 1, 2005, 34,000 volunteerscompleted about 900 projects inmore than 15 countries, leaving a lastingimpression on the communitiesthey touched.
Employees organize each volunteerproject, which are handpicked accordingto personal significance. For thispast Global Volunteer Day, PrudentialFinancial volunteers in Newark helpedthrough all forms of community service:clothing and food drives at localchurches, spreading literacy to schoolchildren,and educating families onnutrition and fun-based exercise.
"Global Volunteer Day has made anextraordinary impact as a communityservice initiative through the volunteers' dedication, creativity, and leadership,"says Gabriella Morris, vice president ofCommunity Resources for Prudentialand president of The Prudential Foundation."For the past decade, our volunteershave ensured that we worked withorganizations addressing the mostpressing needs in our communities."Volunteers addressed Newark's urgentenvironmental needs in cooperationwith the Greater Newark Conservancy(www.citybloom.org).
Since 1987, the Greater NewarkConservancy has encouraged communityempowerment, pride, and selfsufficiency.Through education, training,and support, this private, nonprofitorganization has striven toimprove the quality of urban lifethrough environmental revitalizationand economic development. Theirefforts have transformed neglectedareas into productive open spacesthrough the collaborative actions oflocal residents, schools, organizations,and businesses. "Over the years, theConservancy has transformed morethan 50 lots in Newark into communitygardens," says Kathleen Salisbury,director of horticulture at the GreaterNewark Conservancy.
Prudential has been a major funderof projects and programming for theGreater Newark Conservancy for thepast 6 years. Its employees have participatedin Global Volunteer Day at variousGreater Newark Conservancysites since 2000, planting hundreds offlora throughout Newark and helpingto create a butterfly habitat atMonarch Meadow, located in BranchBrook Park. Volunteers donate theirtime and energy and also bring thesupplies to complete the project."When they pick us as a project site,they also have a budget for tools,equipment, plants, mulch, and othersupplies," Salisbury says.
In 2003, the Prudential OutdoorLearning Center was founded at theUrban Environmental and EcologicalCenter (UEEC) on Prince Streetthrough a $750,000 grant. Listed onthe New Jersey Register of HistoricPlaces, this once-abandoned 1884 synagoguenow houses the UEEC. Adjacentto the building, which is currentlyundergoing restoration, the PrudentialOutdoor Learning Center is situatedon 1.5 acres—a rare piece of land tofind in a city such as Newark. For thepast several years, Prudential volunteershave focused on transforming thisarea into green space for the communityto enjoy.
Global Volunteer Day participantsat the Prudential Outdoor LearningCenter built a 20-ft by 20-ft outdoorstorage shed and planted flowers inOctober 2005. On past Global VolunteerDays, employees have created ahandicap-accessible brick pathway to aworking greenhouse and constructedconcrete walls in the Nelson MandelaFreedom Garden. Through Prudential'songoing efforts, this open space allowsurban residents of all ages to reenergizetheir spirit and learn about the importanceof nature in their lives through thePrudential Outdoor Learning Center's10 thematic gardens, pond with cascadingstream, and winding paths.
Among the determining factors toweigh when considering a financialservices company, investors may wishto consider a company's social responsibilityto the community. "It's not onlythe right thing to do, but our employees,investors, customers, and shareholdersalso expect it," Ryan says.Through Prudential's ongoing commitmentto the Greater Newark Conservancy,opportunities now exist for thecity's children to learn about the naturalwonders of the environment.Prudential's volunteerism helps theConservancy join with the communityto realize a common goal: to beautifythe city they call home.