Since its founding in 1926, the Wills Group and its family of companies has made giving back to its local communities a top priority. Part of the company’s Community Engagement work includes several yearly events. These include regular employee volunteer opportunities, an annual charitable match campaign to support employee giving, and the annual Blackie Wills Golf Classic in September. The Golf Classic raised over $342,000 this year for the Blackie Wills Community Leadership Fund. The fund supports the company’s two signature programs: Nourishing Children and Families and Reimagining Outdoor Spaces.

Meeting Basic Needs

Under its Nourishing Children and Families program, the Wills Group has long supported regional and local food banks. The company began its partnerships with food banks by providing food, employee volunteer hours, and grants to purchase food for their clients.

Now, the Wills Group is focused on working with its food bank partners to develop community education initiatives that solve food insecurity, such as community gardens to teach families to grow vegetables. For example, the Wills Group has given grants totaling more than $150,000 to Farming 4 Hunger. Farming 4 Hunger hosts more than 5,000 volunteers, groups, individuals, and families at Serenity Farm, and provides 26% of the fresh food that goes to the Maryland Food Bank.

A second major focus of the Wills Group’s Community Engagement is the Reimagining Outdoor Spaces program. This past summer, the Wills Group, and members of the Phoenix Run Park community dedicated the reimagined park in La Plata. The Wills Group invested more than $130,000 to transform the park, supported by hundreds of volunteer hours across the Phoenix Run Park community and Wills Group employees. The company has a second location lined up for its Reimagining Outdoor Spaces program—Tanglewood Park in Clinton, Maryland, near a Dash In store that opened in October 2021.

The company also has regular opportunities to both give funds and raise charitable funds to support its partners. For example, at each Dash In grand opening, the Wills Group typically donates $5,000 to a food bank, $1,000 to a school, and $500 to a fire department.

Looking Ahead

While the Wills Group will continue to support its food bank partners and seek new outdoor spaces to reimagine, COO and President Julian B. (Blackie) Wills III is already considering the next iteration of Community Engagement.

“We have two good programs, and we’re looking at education and how we can incorporate that into those initiatives as well,” Wills said. “We’re also considering our geography here in the mid-Atlantic region near the Chesapeake Bay, so we might be branching out into some environmental initiatives in the future. What we do know is that our Community Engagement isn’t static. As our organization grows, we want to do more for our communities.”

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