Feeding The Spirit...
"We believe in supporting our employees and families as much as possible, especially in their time of need." - Dwayne J. Clark
"...you always need to be there for your employees and they’ll always be there for you."
How It All Began
Chief executive officer and founder of Áegis Living, Dwayne Clark, had a difficult life as a child. Raised largely by a single mother struggling to get by, there were times when he and his mom went without food or money. In fact, as Clark divulged in a moving interview, they once went an entire week surviving on nothing more than potatoes.
“When I was probably about 16 years old, there’s about a week in my life where my mom and I didn’t have a lot to eat,” Clark said. “And so she actually stole some potatoes from her place of employment and we lived on potato soup for about eight or nine days. During that time, she would say, ‘Now I don’t want you to forget, employees have needs just like we’re having this need right now and, you always need to be there for your employees and they’ll always be there for you.’”
Dwayne Clark and Áegis Living established the Potato Soup Foundation with the principal purpose of helping Áegis Living staff and their families in extreme times of need. The foundation has helped people with emergency medical treatment, emergency housing, funeral expenses, and a variety of other crisis situations.
The Potato Soup Foundation is just one of the many ways that Áegis Living gives back to its dedicated employees and the communities in which they’re located. The company also presents the Charlie Clause program, which allows each community to nominate one employee to receive food, clothes, toys and other items during the holiday season. Also during the holidays, Áegis hosts Winterfest, which lets employees shop from items that were purchased by the company for them. Other initiatives include a competitive compensation plan and benefits package, extensive education and training and financial assistance programs during the holidays. It’s all a part of the company culture of Áegis Living, which is based around compassion and support.
How It Works
This non-profit organization works to benefit employees going through crises or dealing with emergencies. Its reach extends to Áegis Living staff at its 32 communities in the U.S. Donations are collected both within those communities – for example, employees can choose to give 25 cents out of each paycheck to the foundation – as well as from outside organizations and donors. The amounts may be small, but every little bit counts and adds up quickly.
As Clark explained to Seattle Business Magazine in October 2013, it’s all based on the principle of empathy.
“If you [an employee] can’t eat, we’ll feed you,” Clark told the source. “If someone needs emergency dental surgery and can’t afford it, we’ll pay for it. Employees making $11 to $13 an hour will give 25 cents a week from their paychecks because we’ve created a culture of caring for each other. I also tell all my senior executives to ask everyone [we do business with] what they can do for our employees.”
Each year, about two dozen Áegis workers in need of financial assistance receive help from the Potato Soup Foundation. One such employee is Griselda Galvan, who works at Áegis of Aptos. She explained during an interview that she had been going through a rough time. Her husband had just been laid off from work began to experience heart problems and was in need of an urgent triple bypass surgery. Meanwhile, her young daughter was going to the University of California, Santa Cruz, and needed her tuition payments made.
“Everything was going wrong. Everything was bad,” Galvan said. “When we received that help from the Potato Soup Foundation, it was like a light at the end of the tunnel. Everything started changing after that. Our daughter graduated last month from UCSC with a double major. My husband got a job and he’s healthy now – he looks much better. And I was promoted. … This is a company that we can count on whenever we need help.”