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$1.4M impact: Valero donation funds community projects with United Way

The Port Arthur Valero refinery set a United Way record, gifting the program with approximately $1.4 million in donations for 2020.

Valero employees and partners of the United Way of Mid- and South Jefferson County celebrated the largest employer contribution in chapter history with a check presentation Tuesday at the Valero Port Arthur Refinery administration building.

Janie Johnson, CEO of United Way of Mid- and South Jefferson County, said the contribution directly benefits the community and its individuals.

“Many of the organizations that receive the grant would not be able to be open and remain functioning without United Way,” she said. “It’s more than just money. We also help them with their training and educational support. It’s not just a check every month, there’s a lot of support that goes with that.

Barbara Phillips, public affairs manager for the Valero Port Arthur Refinery.

“We make sure that they are healthy; we don’t want to be a band-aid. We want to make sure that the businesses will stay there in the long run before investing. We want to make an impact in the community.”

Part of the funds for next year will go into a general account to benefit programs such as Adaptive Sports for Kids.

“Through the campaign, we support our community investment plans in every walk of life,” Johnson said. “We have programs that work with toddlers who have disabilities. A.S.K. is a program that allows children who would never have the thrill of hitting a baseball or shooting a basketball to participate in sports. They have volunteer support and buddies who push the kids in their wheelchairs around the bases. They do football, cheer, baseball and more.”

Johnson said the check will also help with basic community needs.

“We live in a community where 45 percent of residents live in poverty or survival mode,” she said. “So whenever someone gets a flat tire and has to buy a new set, we help out. Or if someone has been in an accident, we help until they can get back on their feet until the next paycheck. Especially with flu season, people can’t afford to take days off, without severely effecting their budget.”

Mark Skobel, general manager of the Valero Port Arthur Refinery, spoke Tuesday in the administration building to a room full of employees, guests and business partners.

At the beginning of the year, Johnson said United Way volunteers will review applications for assistance. The remainder of the money is distributed to selected programs and what the costs of their needs are.

The check, totaling $1,426,316, is comprised of Valero employee pledges contributing $912,000 with the rest pooling from additional fundraising.

“We couldn’t do it without the companies like Valero that support the company campaign,” Johnson said. “Each year in the fall, the United Way has community campaigning and focuses on employee giving. It lets them sign up and give pledges that come directly out of their checks.”

Johnson said most of the industries participate in the campaign, with Valero being one of the strongest partners in more than just cost.

“They are really a unique industry with a giving spirit,” she said. “In addition to the financial support to the community, they make time for their employees to provide community service hours every month and every week.

“They even take tours so they can see firsthand the impact they have on the community. On top of that, they even do different drives. Their employee base is made of truly phenomenal people.”

Valero Port Arthur Refinery employees clap Tuesday in the administration building during a check presentation ceremony.

Mark Skobel, general manager of the Valero Port Arthur Refinery, said in a press release that he is extremely proud of his employees.

“It is quite inspiring to see our employees consistently recognize the needs in our community and generously give of themselves to meet those needs, providing huge financial support as well as amazing volunteer participation year-round.”