Philanthropy is very important to Airfoil Group’s founder, Lisa Vallee-Smith. That is why over its nearly 21 years of existence, Airfoil has supported many organizations and interests serving the public good, including Habitat for Humanity, the American Heart Association, The Children’s Center, Focus: HOPE, The Judson Center and The Detroit Institute of Arts.
In 2021, Airfoil devoted its annual Week of Caring to larger efforts we are working hard on as an organization and individuals: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I). Our staff is actively engaged in anti-bias training led by the consultants at Boundless Awareness. We are committed to building inclusive spaces at Airfoil and beyond, and it has inspired many conversations around the office about what we can all do to influence positive change. Our Week of Caring presented a great opportunity to rally around many of the ideas and passions shared by our team members.
We were a proud corporate sponsor of the United Way of Southeastern Michigan’s Equity Challenge. This 21-day virtual education program was designed to develop a collective willingness to confront racism, sexism and other forms of inequity and inequality. Each day, participants received tools and resources to guide their learning and drive meaningful conversations. Airfoil team members were actively engaged in the program, and we continue to explore ways we can apply this knowledge and awareness to ourselves and our work.
We collected donations for the Ronald McDonald House of Detroit. Families with severely ill children face unfathomable trauma, and the pandemic has further exacerbated their challenges. There are deeply rooted racial disparities in health care, and the Ronald McDonald House is a vital support system for many families, both locally in Detroit and around the world.
We made a financial contribution to the National Education Equity Lab, and we are exploring opportunities to assist the organization with volunteer communications work in 2021. The National Education Equity Lab is rethinking access to educational opportunities by enrolling underprivileged, high-achieving high school students in courses offered by selective colleges and universities. We agree with this national non-profit that “talent is evenly distributed, opportunity is not.” This disparity is evident in the PR industry, where 9% of career professionals are white. A lack of equitable opportunity has been a detriment to the industry.
Airfoil’s Week of Caring 2021 culminated on Juneteenth, which Airfoil began recognizing as a holiday in 2020. Our team members were encouraged to use this day to reflect on societal issues of inequity, injustice and inequality and make efforts to influence positive change on an individual basis.
Some of us attended rallies and community events, while others contacted local officials to advocate for more inclusive policies. Some of us took time to educate our children about these important issues, while others spent the day volunteering on the Forgotten Harvest Farm.
As an agency, our commitment to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) is centered around three key initiatives:
Awareness: Acknowledgement that racism in any form is completely unacceptable and contrary to our values.
Education: We actively encourage tolerance, acceptance and change as a business, in our industry, in our communities and in our work with clients.
Introspection: As a business, we must live up to our value of diversity in an urgent and intentional way. In our industry, we must advocate for more equitable opportunities.