United Way of the Piedmont and Milliken partner for associate impact

March 23, 2023

In a boardroom at Milliken’s Spartanburg Headquarters, a group of dedicated individuals from the company’s IS (Information Services) team gather to share in a Reality Check poverty simulation. United Way of the Piedmont offers this expedited experience to teams and individuals to help them understand what it is like for the thousands of families in our community who struggle to make ends meet.

As part of the simulation, associates are divided into “families” who must go through the monthly experiences of a family living in poverty including going to work, grocery shopping, paying bills, finding transportation, and dealing with family dynamics. They are given play cash to trade for goods and services and then forced to make tough decisions when the money runs out. Some turn to the “pawn shop” while others go to the “quick cash” payday loan department to supplement their income, similar to what many families have to do in real life.

The decisions are theirs, and in this simulation, the consequences are imagined. However, for those living in poverty, the decisions and their consequences are very real. This is what United Way of the Piedmont helps members of our community to understand, as we strive to decrease the number of those living below self-sufficiency by 11,000, by the year 2030.

A native Spartanburg Corporation, Milliken has been a strong partner of United Way for decades, supporting their work to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to thrive. While financial support is a big part of Milliken’s support, they also provide opportunities, such as the Reality Check, to their associates to better understand the issues facing their communities. Milliken also empowers their associates to get involved by encouraging dedicated volunteering hours. Their associates are involved in the Young Leaders Advisory Board, Community Investment Processes, and their own Milliken Women’s Alliance, to name but a few ways Milliken associates engage.

In one fundraising drive, Milliken President and CEO Halsey Cook, an avid tennis (and table tennis) player, offered a donation for every shot scored against him in a ping pong tournament, demonstrating his own personal commitment to giving back. “Volunteerism broadens our global perspective and deepens our connection with the communities where our teams live, work, and play. Service opportunities through organizations like United Way of the Piedmont make it easy for us to roll up our sleeves and make a positive impact.”

Craig Haydamack, CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer), commented on another Milliken initiative in partnership with United Way, saying, “One program I’m especially proud to be a part of is the Commute with Enterprise initiative. Thanks to a collaboration led by United Way of the Piedmont, we now are able to offer vanpools to Milliken team members working in Spartanburg, Cherokee, and Union counties who may not have reliable transportation to work. It’s inspiring to see projects like this come together in a way that truly embodies our company’s values and furthers the mission of United Way of the Piedmont.”

This initiative, Commute with Enterprise, was established in 2022 to support those who may have a difficult time making it into work because of transportation issues. Economic Mobility becomes more challenging when 3 out of 4 employees require a car to get to work. With the cost of gas, insurance, and upkeep, many are only one big repair bill from losing that transportation and potentially their job. Commute with Enterprise represents United Way’s innovative and collaborative approach to solving community challenges like transportation.

Paige Stephenson, President and CEO of United Way of the Piedmont remarks that, “Milliken’s involvement in volunteer opportunities, board service, and fundraising serves as a beacon of light to Upstate corporations big and small. They not only show up, they also truly engage, wanting to know more about the community in which they live and what they can do to support it. They’re a true corporate leader in philanthropy.”


About Milliken

Milliken & Company is a global manufacturing leader whose focus on materials science delivers tomorrow’s breakthroughs today. From industry-leading molecules to sustainable innovations, Milliken creates products that enhance people’s lives and deliver solutions for its customers and communities. Drawing on thousands of patents and a portfolio with applications across the textile, specialty chemical, flooring and healthcare businesses, the company harnesses a shared sense of integrity and excellence to positively impact the world for generations. Discover more about Milliken’s curious minds and inspired solutions at milliken.com and on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn.


About United Way of the Piedmont

United Way of the Piedmont is a local nonprofit that fights for the education, financial stability, and health of every member of our community. Our mission is to connect, engage, and inspire people to transform our community. We are more than fundraisers. We forge unique partnerships, find new solutions to old problems, and mobilize the best resources by inspiring others to join the fight. We believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to not just survive, but to thrive. Learn more at www.uwpiedmont.org.