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Community Collaboration and Giving Back as a Way of Doing Business

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Community Collaboration and Giving Back as a Way of Doing BusinessPhoto by Rick Buchanan.
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“There’s no such thing as a self-made man. I really feel like I’m a product of this community, and also our ice cream is,” said Jeni Britton Bauer, founder of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. “I’ve always said, ‘You’ve got to build the community you want to live in,’ and it’s incumbent on all of us to do that.”

Launched in 2002 at the North Market, Jeni’s now has 32 locations nationwide and has grown to be an inherently philanthropic company. Both personally and within the company, Britton Bauer said giving back is a basic part of life. With an early passion for the arts ingrained in her from her studies at The Ohio State University, Britton Bauer has the natural inclination to support local arts organizations today.

Britton Bauer is on the board at the Columbus College of Art and Design (CCAD) and the Wexner Center for the Arts. She contributes to smaller organizations, like the Wild Goose Creative, as well.

“I really believe in the power of art to tell the real history to the people of the future and also to connect us with each other here now,” she said. “I love any organization that adds to the cultural core of this city, and those are mostly from the art community.”

Beyond the arts, Britton Bauer looks at organizations that help people who are “basically like me, who grew up with a single mom that struggled and didn’t know what to do and needed help sometimes.”

She often turns to Besa, one of the nonprofit beneficiaries of The Columbus Foundation. The organization hosts an online portal available for use by volunteers in search of opportunities citywide. It allows businesses to oversee and broaden their charitable efforts, and residents can easily use it to make a donation.

Using Besa, she volunteers with YWCA Family Center and donates to Local Matters, a local nonprofit that provides hands-on cooking classes, holds gardening workshops, and facilitates conversations about food and culture.

This community contribution isn’t only personal, either; she offers financial incentives to each Jeni’s employee to volunteer in their own communities, wherever they are.

“Everyone here feels that we come out a better person every single day we do that,” she said, “better connected to our community and with more understanding of the challenges in our community.”

Britton Bauer finds the impact of The Columbus Foundation’s The Big Give fundraiser to be two-fold and its 26-hour time limit to have an influence all on its own.

“There’s obviously a financial impact of the whole thing, but there’s also the community working together, and I almost think it’s even bigger than the financial — when we can all come together for that one day, it just really feels powerful,” she said, “and it has to be urgent. That’s part of the fun, too, is the urgency of action right now. You’re going to do it now, and then it’s gone.”

To encourage participation in The Big Give, Jeni’s will be giving away a free ice cream cone to anyone who brings in a physical or digital receipt.

For more information, visit jenis.com.

To learn more about The Big Give, visit columbusfoundation.org/giving-events/big-give-2017.

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