Natural Gas Industry Provides Boost to Pa. Nonprofits

Mar 22, 2016

2000 TurkeysThe Patriot News and PennLive recently reported on the positive impact the natural gas industry is having on Pennsylvania nonprofits, citing "Oil and gas development was a game-changer for nonprofits in Washington County and throughout the state."

The story reports that "Range has paid about $1.3 billion to Washington County landowners for leases and royalties." And quotes the company as saying "Even during a challenging down cycle, Range remains committed to the communities where we live and work. We're more creative in how we support these organizations, primarily through volunteer time and helping to connect area nonprofits with other resources and programs to achieve their goals...Range remains the most active corporate neighbor in Washington County. We're very proud of this work," 

The story highlights some of the nonprofits Range has the privilege of partnering with in Pennsylvania, including:

United Way of Washington County

"We were losing money every year until 2007," (Barbra Murphy, President) said.

That year the fundraisers at the United Way of Washington County were hoping the organization could attract at least $750,000 in donations.

Murphy, who was the resource development director at the time, was in charge of "shaking bushes for money."

Now she's president of the nonprofit and oversees a budget that has grown in the last nine years. It reached more than $1.5 million by June 2015.

"It makes me look like a miracle worker, and I'd love to take credit, but it was being in the right place at the right time," Murphy said.

The right place was thousands of feet above a river of natural gas, and the right time was at the start of the Marcellus Shale boom.

As profits fell and the unemployment rate soared, local charitable organizations were receiving more money. They were able to help when it was needed most, thanks to new donations from oil and gas companies.

United Way has collected nearly $1.2 million from the industry since 2007, Murphy said.

Range Resources was the first company to frack a well in Pennsylvania, and it was the first company to donate to the United Way in 2007.

"We're still doing well, even through the layoffs, these companies have not diminished their efforts," Murphy said.

Hunters Sharing the Harvest

John Plowman, the executive director of Hunters Sharing the Harvest, said industry donations have been essential to expanding the venison charity's operations – especially in underrepresented counties.

The money generated by the natural gas industry paid for additional staff members, a bigger advertising push and eliminated the $15 copay deposited by hunters dropping off deer at butcher shops, he said.

Junior Achievement of Western Pennsylvania

"We have seen a sizable decrease in funding but that has not shaken the spirit of our partnership with Range and other energy companies," said CEO Dennis Gilfoyle.

Range has contributed nearly $200,000 to Junior Achievement, and more than a dozen employees volunteer for the organization,

The money helped the nonprofit establish the JA Careers in Energy program.  

In the downturn, Range is "doing all they can to help us raise funds through special fundraising events and reaching out to other segments of the community on our behalf for support," Gilfoyle said.

Dollar Energy FundDollar Energy Fund

However, lower gas prices have made energy costs more affordable for some of the families the organization would normally serve, "thus slightly reducing the overall demand for our program," according to spokeswoman Jody Robertson.

Dollar Energy has received nearly $300,000 from the oil and gas industry. Of that, Range provided about $260,000.

Because each donation is matched dollar for dollar by utility partners, that support has resulted in about $600,000.

"The support from Range Resources specifically has been very important to Dollar Energy Fund and the clients we serve.  Their initial contribution of $100,000 to our organization in 2009 was integral in establishing a connection between the industry and the households struggling to afford basic gas service," Robertson said.

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation 

Mary Pat Joseph didn't expect that oil and gas companies would be able to continue supporting some of the nonprofits during the industry downturn – a serious concern for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation she leads in western Pennsylvania that does "life-saving work."

"I...was very pleased to see that companies like Range Resources have made a great effort to...maintain their alliances and support levels," said Joseph, the foundation's executive director. "I can confidently state that this industry has been a consistent and caring partner to many of us in the nonprofit sector."

Washington County Fair

The millions donated helped revamp the fairgrounds and bring in bigger musical acts according to fair secretary Wayne Hunnell. For example, The Charlie Daniels Band will play at the fair on Aug. 18.

Range has contributed more than $1 million to the fair.

"Range remains the most active corporate neighbor in Washington County. We're very proud of this work," Pitzarella said.

To read more about Range's efforts visit: Community Engagement & Leadership

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