The holidays are upon us. Houses are lit with bright lights and living rooms are adorned with trees. The ringing of the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign bell can be heard at stores across northeastern Pennsylvania reminding everyone that it really is better to give than to receive. It is the most giving time of year, but for the gas companies, that time has been all year. While the activity below-ground may have slowed down, the efforts of the gas companies above the ground have not slowed down at all as they have focused largely on giving back to their local communities this past year.
 
Flood recovery efforts
Early this year, with much of the local area still undergoing extensive recovery efforts from last year’s record flooding, Chesapeake Energy and Chief Oil & Gas continuously put forth their own efforts to help local people and businesses recover from the disaster. For example, according the first 2012 edition of Northeast Driller, Chesapeake Energy donated $10,000 to the Athens Township Volunteer Fire Department and $20,000 to the American Red Cross to assist them in their flood relief efforts. Additionally, Chief had donated $15,000 to help Lackawanna College rebuild from the flood.
“We are grateful to have such a supportive community in Bradford County,” Director of Lackawanna College’s Towanda Center Joyce Kerrick said at the time. “Chief has made it possible for us to rebuild and revive our campus community.”
In fact, the gas companies’ flood recovery efforts were so great that Athens Borough Mayor George Whyte presented Chesapeake the key to the city on Sept. 7, a year after the devastating floods. 
“(Chesapeake) really did an amazing job,” Whyte said. 
Chesapeake’s efforts were further recognized and appreciated during the inaugural Northeast Driller Golf Tournament in May, at which Publisher Greg Zyla presented the company with the Community Service Award.
“Many of the natural gas companies have gone beyond the call of duty to help establish our local communities and continue their dedication through donations and contributions to helping those in time of need,” Zyla said.
Chesapeake’s Vice President of Government Affairs Dave Spigelmyer was present to accept the award.
“Our involvement in communities really comes down to our many employees and contractors that devote their time to the places they live,” he said. “When (the flooding) hit the area, Chesapeake and it’s individuals did a colossal job.
“But we know it goes beyond helping those in time of need,” Spigelmyer continued. “Whether our employees volunteer for things like the scouts or Little League, we’re proud of their volunteer work throughout not just this region but the country as well.”
However, it was not just the main operators assisting the communities in recovery efforts as Sayre Borough Mayor Denny Thomas recognized in February by presenting NOMAC Drilling with a Certificate of Appreciation. 
“I don’t even know what we would have done without those guys,” Thomas had said.
 
Endless Mountains Health Systems Hospital project
Meanwhile, also in February, Cabot Oil & Gas became a leading partner with the Endless Mountains Health Systems (EMHS) as they broke ground on a massive $45 million hospital project in Montrose. 
“Similar to jobs and education, health care helps define a community,” Cabot’s Director of External Affairs George Stark said. “Cabot plans to invest heavily in all three. We plan to be a major partner on this project all the way through to completion.”
Cabot held true to its word throughout the year. In fact, the Cabot/EMHS Community Match Fund was started the next month, beginning with Cabot donating a $1 million leadership gift to the fund on March 23. 
This fund and Cabot’s other community efforts throughout the year played a vital role in Cabot being named the “Business of the Year” by the Susquehanna Economic Development Board and the Progress Authority on Aug. 23. 
“Cabot continues to have an immense impact on our region with their investment in both the natural gas industry and their substantial community support,” Progress Authority Executive Director Anthony Ventello said during the presentation. 
“We are very proud to be an active member of this community and we share this recognition with our hard-working neighbors and partners in the natural gas industry, or friends in the business and philanthropic community and all those dedicated to improving the quality of life in our region,” Stark said.
Cabot continued to donate funds and organizing fundraisers, matching every dollar raised, for the hospital as the year wore on, and in just four months the Community Match Fund raised $4.4 million. Cabot’s fundraisers provided people with fun variety, organizing the “Heat at the Seat” Chili Cook-off in March and becoming a primary sponsor for the Montrose Chocolate and Wine Festival. 
 
Efforts for local United Ways
In fact, it was fundraisers like Cabot’s that inspired Williams, another natural gas company, to hold its own Marcellus Barbecue Cook-off on Oct. 5 in Nicholson to benefit the United Ways of Wyoming County, Susquehanna County, Wyoming Valley and Broome County, N.Y. 
“We wanted to make sure that we’re raising money from the natural gas industry,” Williams spokesperson Helen Humphreys said during the event. “We didn’t want to raise money from those businesses that already have an established relationship with the United Way; we wanted to create new relationships.”
“This is a great regional approach for Williams to the local United Ways,” Wyoming Valley United Way President Bill Jones said during the cook-off. “This is a fantastic day and opportunity.” 
The Bradford County United Way had its own fantastic opportunity in October when Chesapeake became the first-ever corporate sponsor for the organization’s 2013 Campaign. 
“We were honored to have Chesapeake Energy serve as our first ever Corporate Partner,” the United Way said in a thank-you letter to Chesapeake. “On behalf of United Way of Bradford County, our 44 Funded Agencies, and all the people who benefited from your Corporate Sponsorship, we would like to say thank you.
“We are well aware of Chesapeake’s many efforts to be a good corporate citizen,” the letter continued. “Your contribution to the United Way of Bradford County had a tremendously positive impact on our campaign and in our community. Because of your donation, we were able to host several events including our Campaign Kick-Off event, and signature Day of Caring projects. 
“We are excited to work with Chesapeake Energy during our 2013 Campaign and  very pleased with the Partnership. We look forward to continuing to work together in the future. Together, we’re building a better community for all of us, and that’s what matters.”
 
Contributions to Other Local Businesses and Organizations
Businesses have also seen the effects of the gas companies’ community involvement, as the Bradford County Airport discovered on April 18, when Talisman Energy donated a housing unit to the airport to help pilots and other aviation personnel in need of an overnight stay.
“It can sometimes be difficult for them to find a place to stay and we’re hoping this unit will attract more traffic,” Airport Manager Heather Blokzyl had said. “Since the gas industry came to this area, we’ve already seen more (air) traffic and fuel sales; we’ve just been busier overall.”
Bradford County Commissioner Doug McLinko said that the benefits of the donation would not only be felt by the airport, but by local taxpayers as well.
“This housing unit will benefit taxpayers and ease the burden that the county carries as it helps pay for the airport,” he said. 
Talisman also held a yard sale style benefit in June at Alparon Park in Troy in an effort to raise money for the Bradford County Humane Society in Ulster and the Animal Care Sanctuary in East Smithfield, in which they sent out roughly 1,000 invitations to their leased landowners. 
In addition to the money raised, two individual Talisman employees, Myles Lawrence and Jose Marciel, donated $50 of their own to the animal shelters.
“We not only work for the oil and gas company,” Marciel had said. “We’re human beings and we worry about the children and the animals.” 
The company has also given monetary donations to various organizations throughout the year.
“Talisman Energy’s policy is to seek opportunities to benefit the communities in which it works,” Mike Reid, acting vice president of corporate affairs in the U.S., said. “Through aligning with organizations that are valued by the community, we both support them and help establish Talisman as an operator of choice.”
Just some of Talisman’s local donations include a $10,000 donation to Grace Connections to assist in its home heating program, an $8,000 donation to the Five Rivers  Boy Scout Council, $5,000 donations to the North Towanda Fire Rescue, Northern Tier Helping Hands, the Challenge Program, which recognizes academic and community excellence for high school students, the National Wild Turkey Federation, Towanda Borough Police, the Endless Mountain Music Festival and the Central Bradford Progress Authority Business-to-Business Expo, as well as $3,000 to the Luzerne Foundation: Hunts for Healing, which supports military veterans.
EOG Resources was also extremely involved with various local efforts.
“EOG Resources believes its decentralized business model, where employees live and work in the same communities where it has operations, has a positive and direct impact on local communities,” Public Relations Manager K Leonard said. “Employees and contractors directly support regional economies by purchasing local goods and services and paying local taxes. EOG employees also take pride in making a positive difference in the lives of those around them and in their own communities. 
“Employees in every EOG location generously donate their time to serve a wide range of charitable organizations,” Leonard continued. “Engrained in the company culture, volunteerism is also encouraged and employees enjoy the opportunity to work together on different community projects. Employees help others not because of a feeling of obligation but because of a desire to make a difference in their quality of life. 
Specifically, EOG donated funds or time to the Fraternal Order of Police in Indiana County, the Friends of Parker Dam Organization, the Horton Township Volunteer Fire Department, the Troy Area School District Foundation, Canonsburg’s Fourth of July Parade, the Noah Angelici Hope Foundation Memorial Golf Event, benefitting Noah’s House of Hope, which supports Dr. Stephen Emory’s work at Magee-Women’s Hospital along with the Children’s Home and Lemieux Family Center, victims of Hurricane Sandy by collecting blankets and clothes as part of the North Strabane Township Police Department relief effort, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation’s Walk Fundraiser and a fundraising walk benefiting Multiple Sclerosis research, according to Leonard.
“Employee donations are matched by EOG as part of the matching gifts program, which encourages personnel to support charitable organizations,” she added. “To encourage employees to be generous, EOG matches their donations, dollar for dollar, up to $75,000 per employee, per calendar year.”
The list of the gas companies’ contributions to local communities goes for a long time in various ways. Whether it was Cabot holding a clay pigeon shooting tournament to benefit the Scranton School for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children or collaborating with the Red Cross for a blood drive, or Chesapeake partnering with the Bradford County Conservation District to plant trees or donating furniture items to the Bradford County Manor and the Bridge, the gas companies have proven all year long that the holidays is not the only time of year for giving.
“As a growing part of the community, Cabot wishes to embrace existing ongoing efforts and look to create new ways to support our neighbors,” Stark said. “We see the need and the importance of giving back and we want to be a leader in this effort.”
“Community involvement is a key aspect of Chesapeake’s commitment to positively benefiting the areas where we operate,” Senior Director of Corporate Development Brian Grove said. “Whether volunteering in the community or providing funding for nonprofits doing vital work, Chesapeake and its employees understand the importance of giving back and make service to others a part of their lives.”
Johnny Williams can be reached at (570) 265-1639; email: jwilliams@northeastdriller.com.