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    Miracle Grants Gets Employees Involved in Giving

    Terra Photo Patagonia employees are given a lot of latitude: flexible work schedules, hall passes for surf and snow, no one looking over shoulders making sure we’re working. In essence we’re treated like the big kids we are and trusted to get our work done.

    We’re also invited to help determine which groups receive money through the company’s environmental grants program. Miracle Grants are the most direct method.

    Our Miracle Grants program was initiated three years ago to encourage more employees to get involved in our grant-giving process and become better acquainted with local environmental issues. Presently, only employees at our Ventura headquarters can participate, though the program will likely be expanded next year to include employees at our Reno Distribution Center.

    In September, $40K was divvied up among eight work groups here at headquarters. Members of each group nominated deserving nonprofit environmental organizations (mostly local ones) as possible grant recipients, then made a case for each to their colleagues, either in writing, orally or, as our accounting department did last year, with a bit of theater, margaritas and organic peanut butter (Who knew accounting could be such fun!).

    [Our Creative Services department awarded its $5,000 Miracle Grant to Terra Resources Development, helping to bring healthy drinking water to Bolivian villagers.Photo: Justin Bastien]

    Kim doug The votes were tallied in October, with $5,000 to go to the top eight vote-getters. One work group was so large, they were given $10K to donate. Another split their $5K between two enviro groups. In addition to casting a vote, Patagonia employees are encouraged to volunteer up to eight hours of company-paid time to work for a group.

    As someone with a longstanding interest in environmental issues and 11-year history here at Patagonia, it’s very cool to see employees embrace the program. Especially those who had little previous interest in environmental work.

    “This experience not only let me work with my co-workers in a different way,” wrote one employee, “it gave me the opportunity to play a more significant role in Patagonia's amazing environmental grants program. To top it all off, it inspired me to be more environmentally active.”

    That person went on to join our Ventura-based environmental grants council and attend this year’s Tools for Grassroots Activists conference. She’s now one of our more environmentally engaged and active employees.

    Another wrote: “Members of our team spent several Saturday mornings wading in the icy Ventura River at various locations testing water quality as part of the on-site creek water testing that the Matilija Coalition (through the Stream Team) performs on a monthly basis. It was a hands-on way to learn about local habitat, the delicate condition of our stream waters and testing methods. It was also a great way to spend a few Saturday mornings, climbing through brush, rock hopping over rushing waters, and learning the history of the local dam-removal effort.” 

    At $40K, Miracle Grants are but a fraction of Patagonia’s overall support for environmental work, which last year totaled $3.8 million in grants and in-kind donations ($35 million to date). One percent of our sales are donated to groups working to protect and restore the natural environment, profits or not. Those monies are mostly disbursed through employee grants councils at our offices in Ventura, Reno, Europe, Japan, and in our individual stores.

    Cake The groups below will receive a Miracle Grant this year:

    Terra Resource Development (, which works to ensure clean, accessible water for villagers in Bolivia.

    Los Padres Forest Watch (, leading efforts to protect the Los Padres National Forest and other public lands along California's central coast.

    Ojai Raptor Center (, dedicated to the rehabilitation and release of injured, orphaned and displaced birds of prey in Ventura County.

    Wishtoyo (, a bridge preserving the wisdom of the ancient Chumash culture and linking it to the present day environmental issues.

    Channel Islands Marine and Wildlife Institute (, committed to aiding and rescuing marine animals and wildlife affected by natural and unnatural causes.

    Thompson Divide Coalition (, committed to securing permanent protection from energy development for federal lands in Colorado’s Thompson Divide area.

    South Coast Habitat Restoration (, emphasizing steelhead trout recovery projects near Santa Barbara and Ventura, California.

    Naples Coalition (, helping to preserve the rural character of the Naples property on the Gaviota coast.

    Native Seed/SEARCH (, promoting the use of ancient crops and their wild relatives by gathering, safeguarding, and distributing seeds of the American Southwest and northwest Mexico to farming and gardening communities.

    [Above, right - Doug Freeman, Vice President of Production, awards a check for $5,000 to Kim Stroud of the Ojai Raptor Center at his department’s Miracle Grants reception in November. The Naples Coalition also received a check for $5,000 from the Production Dept. Photo: Jim Little. Above, left - Members of the Production Department enjoyed Mexican food and chocolate cake at their Miracle Grants reception. Photo: Jim Little]

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