Ever since Timberland was founded in 1973, giving back to the communities we inhabit has been a huge part of who we are. Our Path of Service™ program offers full-time employees up to 40 hours of paid time a year to serve their local communities, and we organize two annual global service events, Earth Day in the spring and Serv-a-palooza in autumn, to help employees use their hours.
While Earth Day marks an important opportunity to improve the great outdoors that is the core of Timberland’s business, Serv-a-palooza is an even more meaningful service event for the company. It is a time when all Timberland employees around the world put the company’s values in action by dedicating a day to serving their local communities.
“Serv-a-palooza is unique to Timberland,” explains Atlanta McIlwraith, Timberland’s Senior Manager of Community Engagement. “Fall is an important season for our business, and Serv-a-palooza lets us take a day at this time of year to celebrate our heritage and become grounded as a community.” The event allows employees who might not otherwise ever get to know each other work side by side. “On that day, it doesn’t matter what your title is—everyone’s the same,” she says. “When you’re volunteering together on site, it breaks down boundaries and builds a community. It’s a real source of pride to employees and something everyone enjoys.”
What made this year’s event especially poignant is that it marked a turning point in the history of Timberland. In June 2011, the acquisition of Timberland by VF Corporation was announced, signaling the end of three generations of family leadership.
Historically, Timberland’s evolution has been framed by the theme of “Boot, Brand, Belief.” “Boot” is represented by founder Nathan Swartz, who created the company’s iconic waterproof leather boot. His son Sidney Swartz built the Timberland “Brand,” expanding the company internationally and adding product lines such as apparel, women’s and children’s footwear, and accessories such as backpacks and watches. And it was Sidney’s son Jeffrey Swartz who formalized the company’s “Belief” in social justice, environmental sustainability and corporate social responsibility.
In celebration of these three “B”s, the activities at this year’s Serv-a-palooza event at corporate headquarters in Stratham, New Hampshire, were organized around this theme:
BOOT: Touched by the suffering of families in Joplin, Missouri, which was devastated by tornados, volunteers framed four houses for Habitat for Humanity in Timberland’s front parking lot—two for families from Joplin and two for families in need in Kansas City.
BRAND: Volunteers participated in projects designed to make a meaningful contribution to the town of Newmarket, New Hampshire—the birthplace of the Timberland brand. These included creating a new outdoor community gathering and performance space, building an outdoor classroom at a local elementary school and improving the high school grounds, enhancing local little league fields and refurbishing historic local buildings.
BELIEF: Several activities embodied belief including greening the campus of a community center for local nonprofits, transforming the meeting space for local disabled veterans, preparing forest trails for the harsh New England winter, and knitting blankets for the families for whom the Habitat for Humanity homes were being framed.
In all, 566 volunteers participated in the September 7-8, 2011, event in Stratham, of whom 427 were Timberland employees (the remainder were family, business associates, and friends). These figures included many leaders of VF Corporation—a key milestone as Timberland begins to integrate into the VF Family of brands.
“Their involvement was important as we’re transitioning,” says McIlwraith. “People were wondering ‘what now’? To have VF and some of their outdoor brands participate in our annual day of service symbolized their commitment to understanding and experiencing something that is uniquely Timberland.”
It was important to the VF team, as well. A couple of weeks before the event, VF announced that the Path of Service™ program would remain intact after the transition. Steve Rendle, vice president of VF Corporation and group president for the company’s Outdoor & Action Sports coalition, was so inspired by the experience, he announced to Timberland employees at the end of the day that VF outdoor brands would participate with Timberland in serving in their communities for Earth Day 2012.
“The crowd went wild, and when he tried to quiet them down, the reaction grew louder,” McIlwraith reports. “It was a very powerful moment and reminder of the power of service. We’re thrilled to have the support of our new owners.”