How the Wonderful Company Helped a California Town Find Itself Again

May 22, 2017

Takeaways

The story behind last year's winner for Best Community Improvement Program at the 2016 Citizens Awards.

[Editor's Note: The Wonderful Company was awarded Best Community Improvement Program award at our 2016 Corporate Citizenship Awards. We are currently accepting nominations for this year's Citizens Awards. Submit your nomination by June 23!]

For The Wonderful Company, being “wonderful” reaches beyond its catchy name. It echoes the Los Angeles-based food and beverage corporation’s exceptional commitment to deeply investing in the communities where its employees live, work, and play.

Take, for example, the once-sleepy town of Lost Hills, Calif., a dusty rural sprawl 145 miles north of L.A. Wonderful — makers of POM Wonderful, Wonderful Pistachios, and Fiji Water — has operated near the farming enclave for three-plus decades. Some 50 percent of the households in the unincorporated town are home to at least one individual who works at the company’s pistachio orchards and processing plant 13 miles away.

Finding Lost Hills

When Wonderful owners Lynda and Stewart Resnick discovered that the rural enclave lacked paved roads, streetlights, sidewalks, and sufficient sewage — infrastructure basics that many of us take for granted — they decided to do something about it, starting with restoring hope.

“As a leading employer across California’s Central Valley, we are committed to giving back in the places where our employees live and work, and nowhere does that promise ring truer than in Lost Hills, where we’ve dedicated our time and resources to revitalizing the community and giving its residents life-changing opportunities and a renewed spirit of hometown pride,” Lynda Resnick said in a statement announcing the company’s recent U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation Corporate Citizenship Center 2016 Corporate Citizenship Award.

As the first step in making a change, Wonderful employees went to work getting to know the town’s residents. They asked them about their hopes for the future, focusing on the parts of their lives they’d most like to see improved.

To gather as much community input as possible, company representatives attended school board and water district meetings, sitting and chatting with scores of citizens along the way. Then, literally walking the walk, they conducted door-to-door in-person surveys at each of the town’s 550 residences in 2010 and 2013.

“We wanted to make certain we captured residents’ needs, wants, and visions for their families, especially their children,” Mark Carmel, Wonderful corporate communications associate director, told the Chamber.

Next, the company brought governmental stakeholders into the fold. Among them were representatives from Lost Hills’ parks and recreations department, the local transit provider, and the board of supervisors. With dedication and teamwork from these and other public entities, Wonderful helped the town secure significant tax credits.

Finally, with resources in place from Wonderful’s in-house capital improvements team, it was time to roll out the first major improvement: transforming the town’s blighted park into a vibrant community center, complete with a shared kitchen, a neighboring sports field, and a lush garden.

[Editor's Note: This article originally appeared here.]