Area companies practice benevolence—alleviating individualized needs while elevating the local quality of life as well.
By Julie Anderson
The components of a company charter are varied depending on the company. However, one can assume the company name, purpose, objectives, structure, and scope of operations are all ingredients to be found residing somewhere in the legalese. One Permian Basin company ensured another component was included as well: the charity component.
The Ortloff Corporation launched operations in the Permian Basin in 1962 as an EPC (Engineering, Procurement, and Construction company) in the oil and gas industry and within seven years had vaulted to a place as one of the top 400 engineering construction firms in the country, according to the national publication Engineering-News Record. As a result of the oil bust in the 1980s, the Ortloff Corporation operations were shut down in 1985, and a new company with a new focus was born—Ortloff Engineers, Ltd. Ortloff Engineers, Ltd., leveraged the reputation and experience of the Ortloff Corporation with a focus on cryogenic processing of natural gas for liquids recovery, LNG production and processing, sulfur recovery, and sour gas processing plant design. In 1988, Ortloff’s owner and parent company relocated to the Dallas area. In late 2004, a group of local investors and employees put together a bid to buy the company, and in 2005 the ownership of Ortloff returned to the Permian Basin.
“One of the things on which both investors and employees agreed for the new partnership was a commitment to give back to the community in which we live,” recounted John Wilkinson, president of Ortloff Technology Group, LLC, which is a general partner of Ortloff Engineers. “So Ortloff wrote into our charter that a set percentage of all pre-tax profits be donated to local charities and named the program, ‘Live to Give Back.’ ” This meant that regardless of how the company did in any particular year, a portion of the earnings would automatically be set aside to help those in need.
Fast forward five years, and that charity clause in the company charter translated into $1 million in donations. Ortloff marked this milestone with a $50,000 gift to Midland Memorial Foundation, at which time Craig Campbell, Ortloff’s chairman of the board, challenged other companies “to consider a similar charter of giving back to their community. We believe other companies would find ‘giving back’ is something their employees would eagerly support as ours have.” Finally, this same year the Association of Fundraising Professionals honored Ortloff as its Outstanding Philanthropic Business.
Fast forward to today, and Ortloff has now surpassed $1.5 million in donations, with money going to 60-plus organizations including Manor Park, Midland YMCA, Midland Community Theatre, Safe Place of the Permian Basin, Midland Children’s Rehabilitation Center, Midland Rape Crisis and Children’s Advocacy Center, and the Midland College Foundation.
Along with donating funds, Ortloff encourages employees to actively participate in the organizations they support. For example, Ortloff representatives have taken hammers in hand to build homes with Habitat for Humanity and donned tennis shoes for the American Diabetes Association Walk-a-thon.
In addition, for the third year in a row, Ortloff Engineers is a co-sponsor of the Alzheimer’s Association’s “An Evening to Remember” fundraiser. “This event continues to grow,” shared Rhonda M. Murray, of Ortloff’s Human Resources Department. Ortloff, FirstCapital Bank of Texas, and Concho Resources Inc. are sponsoring the fundraiser, set for Feb. 26, 2015, at the Petroleum Club of Midland. The evening will feature Erik Wahl, an internationally recognized graffiti artist, best-selling author, entrepreneur, and philanthropist whose live artwork will be auctioned at the event.
The first Evening to Remember generated $58,000, and the second raised some $78,000, Murray reported. Twenty-five percent of the proceeds remain local, with 75 percent of the proceeds “donated to research in hopes to eradicate this terrible disease,” she continued.
Obliging. Helpful. Friendly. Kind. Devon Energy sets great store in these traits, and in fact cites neighborliness as a top priority.
“One of Devon’s core values is to be a good neighbor and to support local nonprofits such as the food banks in our areas of operation,” explained Jerry Mathews, Devon’s production superintendent in Artesia.
“Devon Energy sees great value in the impact employees make during local food drive campaigns and, ultimately, in the lives of adults and children who [otherwise] go hungry,” Mathews continued. Devon was pleased to contribute $46,000 to support food banks and backpack programs throughout the Permian Basin in 2014.”
An independent energy company, Devon is engaged in the exploration, development, and production of oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids. The company’s operations are concentrated in North American onshore areas that extend from Western Canada to the Gulf Coast region in the United States. Devon’s U.S. operations are focused in four core areas: the Eagle Ford Shale, Barnett Shale, Anadarko Basin, and the Permian Basin.
Along with helping the hungry, Devon lends a financial hand in several other areas, including local schools and emergency responders.
Devon launched its Science Giants grant program to recognize schools for helping students excel in science and for preparing them for college and future careers. The program began in the Permian Basin four years ago in the Ector County Independent School District and has now expanded to include numerous public school districts across West Texas and Southeast New Mexico.
The Science Giants award recognizes schools that demonstrate academic gains in science and innovative approaches to foster students’ interest in this critical subject. Schools use the awards to provide additional educational resources to enhance learning.
In 2013, Devon awarded Science Giants grants to the following schools:
- Underwood Elementary in Andrews, Texas
- Jefferson Montessori Academy in Carlsbad, N.M.
- Carver Center in Midland, Texas
- Artesia High School in Artesia, N.M.
“The teachers at all four schools have worked diligently to provide a strong program that enhances science education for their students,” shared Shannon Moss, a Devon production supervisor. “Science plays a critical role in our business, and the schools are doing an outstanding job providing a foundation for young students who may someday pursue careers in our industry. We’re excited to have the opportunity to help them strengthen their classroom programs.”
This year, Devon will award a total of six grants to Permian Basin schools as a part of the Science Giants program. Applications are open to public elementary, middle, and high schools in Midland, Odessa, Andrews, Big Lake, Mertzon, and Ozona, Texas, as well as in Eddy and Lea counties in New Mexico.
Since the program’s launch in the Permian Basin in 2011, Devon has awarded a total of $95,000 in grants, with another $100,000 to be awarded in December 2014.
Devon is committed to safety, and as the company’s operations continue to increase, its focus on safety increases too, asserted Tim Raley, senior production superintendent. Devon recognizes that first responders are an integral part of local communities and supports their efforts to protect the Permian Basin.
In West Texas, Devon honors several local fire departments at its annual Devon Firefighter Appreciation Night at the RockHounds game (Midland’s minor league baseball team). This year, the company donated a total of $27,000 to 18 West Texas fire departments. The fire departments’ volunteers and families also were invited to a RockHounds game in Midland and a barbecue, courtesy of Devon.
In 2014 alone, Devon has contributed more than $98,000 to emergency response organizations across its Permian Basin operating areas.
“Our first responders do so much for our communities throughout the year to help protect our families and businesses,” stated Moss. ”This is just one small way we can give back.”
The growth of the oil and gas industry has created greater needs in the nonprofit sector and the community at large, indicated Vicki Jay, executive director of Midland Shared Spaces.
“Oil and gas industry leaders have led the way in energizing our community through generous support of education, human services, the arts, and other quality initiatives,” she continued.
Midland Shared Spaces (MSS) is one such initiative. Located at 3500 N. “A” St. in Midland, MSS opened in January of this year with 11 nonprofit organizations housed under one roof. The facility offers discounted rent to a variety of nonprofits, which maintain separate office spaces but share the cost of common areas, IT services, and office supplies.
The inaugural tenants included Agape Ministries, Camp Fire, Family Promise of Midland, Keep Midland Beautiful, Midland Opera Theater, Midland Shared Spaces, Mission Adult Day Services, Nonprofit Management Center of the Permian Basin, Safe Place of the Permian Basin, S.H.A.R.E., and the Recording Library of West Texas. Since opening, MSS has added Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Be The Change, and West Texas Food Bank.
“Joining forces with MSS, industry leaders have demonstrated community responsibility and leadership,” Jay said. “The relationship with MSS has allowed them to mobilize and support the work of 14 nonprofit tenants, as well as the nonprofit sector at large. Their energy and resources have made an impact on our community far beyond the business arena. On behalf of many, Midland Shared Spaces is indebted.” A listing of MSS supporters is available at http://midlandsharedspaces.org/supporters.
Midland Shared Spaces offers the following perspective on benevolence, as found at http://midlandsharedspaces.org/about-mss/support-mss.*
Six Great Reasons to Donate to Charity
Donating your time or money to a worthy cause helps make a positive difference in the world, which is enough of a good reason to give. But there are many other benefits worth exploring:
- 1. A Sense of Purpose: Helping people in need can enlarge your world and transform you into a more important part of the community. Whether you give out of a sense of connectedness, or for political or spiritual reasons, taking positive action to solve problems can be personally fulfilling.
- 2. Improved Well-Being: Giving to others can improve your physical health, self-esteem, and mental health. One day you’ll retire, so think about the findings of a 2010 Cornell University study, which found that baby boomers who volunteered on environmental projects gained huge benefits. “Environmental stewardship is strongly linked to greater physical activity, better self-rated health, and fewer symptoms of depression over a period of 20 years,” the study found. Environmental volunteers are also half as likely as non-volunteers to feel depressed later in life, while other forms of volunteering cut depression by about 10 percent.
- 3. Society Benefits: “Nearly 20 percent of donors nationwide said that the most important reason they donated was to help people meet basic needs such as food, shelter, clothing, and heat,” and 17 percent said “making the world a better place” motivated them, according to Philanthropy Matters, a publication of the Center on Philanthropy. Americans gave almost $300 billion to domestic charities in 2010, according to the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University.
- 4. Tax deductions: Society repays you with a nice deduction from your taxes for most charitable donations, but you need to have proof. “The IRS requires a receipt for each tax-deductible contribution of $250 or more,” according to the United Way. “Depending on the amount or type of your gift, you may need to provide additional documents with your tax form, such as Form 8283 for each non-cash donation exceeding $500.”
- 5. Matching gifts: Many corporations will match your charitable contributions, sometimes dollar-for-dollar, and help you make them with automatic payroll deductions. This will not only maximize the impact of your giving, but also influence your company’s charitable activities by directing dollars to the charity of your choice.
- 6. Personal satisfaction: You can strike a blow against diseases or situations that have hit you personally. “With a father and four of his siblings dead from the same disease, I can look at the check I send to the Alzheimer’s Association and see something that is every bit as therapeutic as any new therapy that money may help create. I see new drug trials, and respite care, and a light against enveloping darkness,” Esquire writer and author Charles P. Pierce wrote in “Sweet Charity: The Benefits of Giving Back” for O, the Oprah Magazine.
*Excerpt from “Six Great Reasons to Donate to Charity” by Steve Higgins, http://www.dimespring.com/articles/6-great-reasons-to-donate-to-charity. Remark Media
Julie Anderson, based in Odessa, is editor of County Progress Magazine, and is well known to many readers of PBOG as the former editor of this magazine.