A Foundation for Change
In my experience, all successful organisations have community at the core of their values. Delivering exceptional projects is only possible with the support of the communities we work alongside, and as CEO of the Sarah Group Holdings, I have a personal responsibility to ensure our teams positively impact the people and organisations that grant us social licence to operate.
This contribution goes beyond minimising construction impacts, to proactively looking for ways to build capacity and leave communities better than when we arrived. And, as a proudly South Australian family-owned business, we understand our obligations to assist vulnerable people in the wider community.
For the past three years, I have been privileged chair the Sarah Foundation, distributing $100,000 each year to charities tackling complex social problems. The Foundation also provides an avenue to build community amongst our team, offering opportunities to direct donations to charities dear to them and providing paid volunteering leave, which is only a small compensation for the many unpaid hours they happily donate.
With the many pressures currently facing Australian families, community groups and social profit organisations, I am grateful for support and leadership of our teams, and proud of the difference we are making.
The Sarah Foundation
Being a proudly local organisation, finding ways to enhance the lives of other South Australians has always been important to the Sarah Group.
A long-standing birthday initiative that donates $100 on behalf of each staff member to a charity of their choice highlighted an overwhelming interest in assisting organisations tackling the complex challenges of mental health, young adversity, and homelessness.
By talking to our teams, we realised that we could have more meaningful impact by formally coordinating our programs of support. In 2020, the Sarah Foundation was launched, with a vision of making positive changes for South Australians in need. Each year we partner with five charitable organisations as recipients of the birthday donation program and other fundraising activities.
In another initiative, all staff are encouraged to take one paid Leave Day per financial year, to engage in volunteer work or community service, which could include local sports clubs or addressing grassroot needs in their own community.
The Foundation assists by coordinating four volunteering opportunities that staff can participate in. Sarah’s next volunteer opportunity is working with John Hartley School in Smithfield Plains, creating a Kaurna learning circle and totem poles featuring designs developed through the school’s arts curriculum.
When upgrading the Group’s IT equipment, most items are repurposed and donated to charitable organisations to assist individuals or reduce operational costs; for example, last year the Foundation donated 100 laptops.
I am proud that in the last three years, the Foundation has provided charities including Mates in Construction, the Smith Family, Catherine House, Backpack 4 Kids and Foodbank with more than $250,000 in direct financial aid as well as thousands of volunteer hours.
“It’s important to support volunteer-based organisations so they can continue to provide much needed community services. I enjoyed the invitation to volunteer at Foodbank and look forward to future involvement.”
Steve Sturm, Group Executive IT, Sarah Constructions
A Social Licence to Operate
Sarah delivers projects in the hearts of local communities; working alongside homes and businesses, schools, sporting clubs, community centres, parks, and other places of value to the local community. These communities give us a ‘social licence to operate’, and it’s important to Sarah that our teams return the respect and care shown to us.
Each of our project managers has a responsibility to not only carefully manage the safety of the community and reduce impacts to our neighbours, but to also identify areas where our teams can positively contribute to local organisations.
Initiatives have included working alongside the Department for Education to support Certificate training courses for students, including young Indigenous people; coordinating planting days with Trees for Life; building a home for disability organisation Life Without Limits; upgrading sporting facilities over and above the project scope; and finding opportunities for social-profit organisations to benefit from the project.
It is also important that we honour Sarah’s Reconciliation Action Plan or RAP commitments through our projects, identifying and engaging Aboriginal-owned subcontractors and suppliers for meaningful outcomes and increasing their capacity for future projects.
The Gift of Giving
We are proud to be currently partnering with Foodbank, who provide more than 88 million meals to Australians in need each year.
Working with Foodbank SA/NT, last Christmas Sarah provided funding for 1000 Bags of Kindness, each providing a South Australian family with meals and treats that may otherwise be out of reach.
The initiative also allowed Foodbank to supply an additional 200 bags for people attended Christmas events at the Hutt Street Centre, a South Australian charity supporting people facing homelessness.
Our partnership continues with a recent volunteering day at Foodbank’s Edwardstown distribution centre, where Sarah’s staff contributed to various general warehouse tasks – sorting groceries, packing food hampers, labelling products, and organising fruit and vegetables.
I asked Senior Estimator Anthony Sawyer to share what the opportunity to spend the day volunteering meant to him:
“‘Volunteering for Foodbank was important to me as it was not only a chance to help people in need, but an opportunity to tour their facilities and to get a real understanding of just how many people are affected by hunger and food insecurity.”
I look forward to continuing to work alongside our teams and these wonderful community organisations to change the lives of South Australians and invite you to learn more about their work using the links below.