Giving Back and Getting Well: A Look At The Red Tab Foundation

Levi Strauss & Co.
April 11, 2014

Here at Levi Strauss & Co., we’re committed to giving back. That’s why we love the Red Tab Foundation, a nonprofit that aims to help LS&Co. employees and retirees overcome financial emergencies. From natural disasters to unforeseen medical crises, providing employees and retirees access to emergency aid is imperative to us.

To help spread awareness for their cause, Red Tab Foundation (RTF) team members have several fundraising initiatives, including company grants and special events, like the Levi’s Presidio 10 race set to take place this weekend.

Unzipped spoke with Alexis Bechtol, who helps coordinate grants and fundraising for RTF to learn more about the nonprofit, the incredible work they do, and this weekend’s big race.

Alexis Bechtol Levi Strauss Red TabUNZIPPED: What is your role at The Red Tab Foundation?
ALEXIS BECHTOL: I’m the grants and fundraising coordinator, so I spend about half my time working with employees and retirees and coordinating grants for them. The other half of my time is spent on fundraising initiatives and employee engagement and volunteerism.

What grants do you help to coordinate?
I work with our LS&Co. retirees who worked in our manufacturing and distribution facilities across the US. The grants that I’m assessing and approving are for a program we call Eldercare Basic Needs Program, which supports our elderly retiree population, providing support for them to get their most basic needs met such as eyeglasses, hearing aids, and dental work.  They are a very vulnerable group, just getting by on modest fixed incomes and often times they have to choose between spending money to heat their home or groceries for the week.  It’s is great that the Red Tab Foundation can help them.

What are the primary goals of The Red Tab Foundation?
The Red Tab Foundation is really unique. We are a 501c3 charity that was started by an LS&Co. employee.  We support our corporate, retail, manufacturing and distribution center employees, as well as our retirees through emergency financial situations. We are a global organization so we’re supporting LS&Co. employees who work not just in the United States, but also in places like South Africa and Poland – really in all LS&Co. locations around the globe.  Every year we help around 1,000 individuals experiencing an unexpected emergency, and distribute $1 million in aid.

We help during natural disasters, a recent example being Hurricane Sandy. We stepped in immediately to help an employee whose apartment was flooded during Sandy—we can issue emergency grants in those types of situations to employees and retirees all over the world who don’t have immediate access to vital resources. We also provide financial education and are a valuable resource in proactively getting employees and retirees on track to effectively manage their money.  We’re always just a phone call away.

Employee engagement and participation is key to our success.  We find it more valuable than the dollar amount of the donations that one gives. We believe it is really important that employees know about The Red Tab Foundation, as it is often times through an employee’s manager or co-worker that we find out about an emergency situation.  So we try to raise awareness about it whenever we can.

Has there been a Red Tab Foundation case that really impacted you?
Within the past year-and-a-half, we helped an employee who was working at Levi Strauss & Co.’s San Francisco headquarters. She went on vacation and had a brain aneurism and she wasn’t able to come back to work. The Red Tab Foundation was able to step in when she was hospitalized away from home, and we flew her family there to be by her side during that time. When she came back home, and was going through rehabilitation, we were also able to help out with her mortgage payments and this alleviated a lot of stress and worry. It truly shows how the money that employees are giving to The Red Tab Foundation really comes full circle and can affect someone who’s sitting right next to you every day.

What type of fundraising do you coordinate at The Red Tab Foundation?
We do have fundraisers—like what we’re doing this Sunday, April 13th, which is the Run for Red Tab. We have about 125 employees signed up so far and we have a goal set to raise $30,000 this year. Employees sign up to participate in the run and it creates really great camaraderie and inter-department competition. Departments will create teams of runners, and set goals for the race.

The Run for Red Tab is a global fundraiser; so we have a Run for Red Tab in Eugene, Oregon this Saturday the 12th, one in Brussels and South Africa later in the year, with other potential locations on the horizon. We hope to expand the Run for Red Tab to LS&Co. locations all over so that any other office or retail store can organize their own run and raise funds for the Red Tab Foundation.
Levi Presidio 10 Race BannerDoes the local community in San Francisco participate?
The Levi’s® brand is sponsoring the race—it’s officially called the Levi’s Presidio 10 this year—and it’ll take place in the Presidio. The race itself draws about 4,000 people, a hundred or so of which are going to be our employees.

What do you love best about what you do?
When you’re working in the nonprofit world, issuing grants to people who are facing some kind of financial emergency, it feels really wonderful to be able to help. And what’s really great is that these people are our co-workers. We’re all a part of this global LS&Co. community and it’s amazing that we can all help each other in times of need.

I also love getting employees who want a way to give back to the LS&Co. community engaged in the program. It’s very simple for employees to either donate their money—or more importantly, their time—to The Red Tab Foundation- through things like the Run for Red Tab or volunteering with us on a regular basis. We’re always looking for volunteers to help and I love engaging our community in that way.

What’s your favorite part of working at LS&Co.?
I’ve been involved as a volunteer at LS&Co. with various programs, and it is what really led me to my current role. I’m the chair of the Community Involvement Team for the homeless and every year, I lead our employee holiday gift-giving drive. I never intend to stop doing volunteer work because I truly enjoy it—and I encourage all others to do it, too!

LS&Co. is an extremely philanthropic company—and what drew me to them initially is that they have a long-standing history of giving back to the community, both locally and globally.  This is truly exemplified by The Red Tab Foundation.  It all seems to come full circle—an employee donates to the Red Tab Foundation, which then goes to an employee in New York or Vietnam, and that employee is now more comfortable and stable in her home and community in which she resides.  It’s a dream job with a great company.