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COMPANY OF GOOD

Neo Garden Begins the year With Love

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Blood donation drives are part of Neo Group's volunteer initiatives where suppliers and customers are invited to take part alongside staff.

Singapore

FOR the employees of Neo Group, the season of giving is always.

The year opens with the food catering service's Begin With Love initative. On Jan 1 each year, all four brands - Neo Garden, Orange Clove, Deli Hub and Best Catering - donate that day's revenue to their adopted charities.

Last year, this initiative raised S$218,000 for 14 different non-profit organisations.

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In addition, Neo Group also started a SEED fund initiative in 2012 and blood donation drives in 2016.

Every month, employees are encouraged to donate a portion of their salary to the SEED fund. Founder Neo Kah Kiat then matches these monthly contributions dollar for dollar.

This sum is donated to charities, used to support volunteer initiatives, and provides financial assistance to employees who need it. To date, the money contributed to the SEED fund has helped over 50 charities. In 2015, S$20,000 was raised for the Nepalese earthquake relief efforts.

Another volunteer initiative is Neo Group's blood donation drives. Reactions among the staff were varied with some finding the large turnout surprising, while others said that it was their first time donating blood.

Blood, after all, as one employee put it, is easier to donate than time or money. Some even chose to put on weight to qualify for the donation.

In 2017, the company decided to invite suppliers and customers to take part in the blood drive. Combined with the families and friends of staff, 1,038 units of blood were donated, compared with 250 in 2016. This was collected over two donation drives held in April and October on the company's premises.

"I have always encouraged my staff to give, whether it is (in the form of) money or volunteering hours," said Mr Neo. "In Singapore, only 1.8 per cent of the population are blood donors."

Other initiatives, such as Every Minute Counts, racked up 1,000 volunteer hours from Neo Group's own employees in helping over 400 beneficiaries. Initiatives included joining the Lions Befrienders in grocery shopping with the elderly and a friendly table tennis match organised by the Table Tennis Association for the Disabled (Singapore) for the Children's Cancer Foundation.

However, Neo Group faced some problems in the beginning. Due to the nature of their work, operations and logistics staff were not totally informed of the caterer's corporate giving practices as they did not have e-mail addresses.

This was addressed when a committee of representatives from different departments was formed to communicate with their factions. They update staff on events, and invite charities to visit during company gatherings to share what they are about. The different departments and their staff are encouraged to adopt an initiative as a team-bonding activity, which will be supported by the fund.

Flexible work schedules further enable staff to set time aside to do volunteer work.

For 2018, Neo Group plans to clock 5,000 hours of volunteer work, get 300 of their staff on board to volunteer for their events, and donate 2,000 units of blood.

As one employee said: "It makes my weekends more meaningful."

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