At first it was another team-building exercise for David Uhlinger, Principal Scientist, Investigative Pathology, Drug Safety Sciences, Johnson & Johnson Pharmaceutical Research & Development (J&JPRD). Along with a group of employees, he was making blankets to send to children affected by disasters. But by the end of the activity, he was hooked. “This program is something that most of us, especially parents, can relate to,” says David, who has since been organizing blanket drives at the J&JPRD campus in Raritan, New Jersey, for the One Child, One Blanket Disaster Relief Program.
Over the years, the employees of the Johnson & Johnson Family of Companies have often supported victims of humanitarian disasters, mainly through company-matched financial and product donations. The One Child, One Blanket program now gives employees a more personal way to get involved.
With enthusiastic support from J&JPRD leadership, David and other colleagues were able to purchase fabric and bring employees together to put the blankets together. “In addition to showing that employees care, it gives employees from different business groups an opportunity to work together and get to know each other,” he adds. To date, more than 85 employees from J&JPRD have participated in the program and 169 blankets have been shipped.
“The One Child One Blanket program has created a path for employees and the community to respond personally, something they have been asking for a long time,” says Leila Mueller, Humanitarian Assistance/Product Giving Specialist, who has been involved in Johnson & Johnson disaster relief efforts for the last eight years.
Blanket donations are made year-round by individual employees as well as through group efforts supported by colleagues, friends, families and the community. The blankets then become part of a kit of individual hygiene items prepared in advance of need.
In 2009, the program’s first year, 1,900 blankets were collected, more than the initial 1,500 goal. The blankets mostly went to displaced children in Pakistan and to children affected by hurricanes in Central America.|
“We’re seeing not just enthusiasm from employees, but also creativity and leadership in support of this effort,” Leila says.
Since Latin America was disproportionately affected by natural disasters in 2010, the program hit close to home for Mariana Fagnilli, Contracts Manager, Advanced Technologies and Regenerative Medicine, LLC. and other members of the employee affinity group HOLA (Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Achievement), many of whom have family members and loved ones in the affected regions. As part of the HOLA leadership, Mariana was successful in making this effort one of HOLA’s signature programs and many chapters have since then joined the efforts.
Mariana also drives the blanket-making effort at the DePuy Family of Companies in Raynham, Massachusetts. DePuy employees in Raynham donated 100 blankets in 2009 and 300 blankets in 2010. The program has been incorporated into their community outreach activities in an effort to get communities, especially children, involved. Several students from a local middle school participated in making blankets as part of their after school activity. “Children especially can relate to the comfort a blanket offers,” says Mariana. “They know what it is like to feel cold. Children making blankets for children – it’s making a huge impact on them.”
A total of 4,295 blankets were donated in 2010, surpassing the goal of 3,000. These blankets reached children in Peru during last year’s exceptionally harsh winter and Haiti in the aftermath of the earthquake and the resulting cholera epidemic. Blankets were also sent to children in Chile affected by the earthquakes, and to Mexico, Honduras and Colombia as part of flood relief efforts.
The blanket program pre-positions the most-needed products from all three sectors (Pharma, Consumer, Medical Devices) of Johnson & Johnson before a disaster strikes. Working with preferred disaster relief partner organizations such as AmeriCares, Direct Relief International, Heart to Heart International, MAP International, Medical Teams International and the Surgical Implant Generation Network (S.I.G.N.), these modules can be airlifted quickly to assist the wounded and displaced in an affected disaster zone.
“Johnson & Johnson has a very robust disaster relief program,” says Leila. “And with the One Child, One Blanket program, it’s the personal engagement of employees who are either knitting or crocheting or purchasing the blanket that embodies the sentiment of Johnson & Johnson.”