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Charity Begins at Home

Various ways in which small businesses give back to their communities and why.

Despite the recession, small businesses were generous givers in 1992, an Inc. inquiry into the eleemosynary habits of modest-sized corporations suggests. But small businesses don't all simply donate to national charities. Many express gratitude by contributing goods and services to the neighborhoods in which they prosper. Here are a few channels through which businesses enrich those communities:

Universal Pediatric Services, Des Moines (home health-care provider): Donates nursing time to care for patients whose insurance has expired.

Paper Direct, Lyndhurst, N.J. (paper distributor): Satisfies blank-paper needs of local schools and nonprofits.

Sarah's Attic, Chesaning, Mich. (gift maker): Donates inspirational china figurines to schools and churches.

Hair Club for Men, New York City (antibaldness chain): Makes wigs and contributes them to young cancer patients suffering hair loss from chemotherapy.

Textileather, Toledo (vinyl processor): Via a standing committee of four employees (no upper management) that meets quarterly, dispenses a portion of profits to local organizations.

Whole Foods Market, Austin (grocery chain): Apportions 5% of net profits annually to charities suggested by employees.

Mycogen, San Diego (biotech developer): Donates lab equipment to and helps teach science at a local high school; company scientists participate in "Shadow Days," in which students follow the scientists through their everyday duties.

Two rationales for local giving: "We want to encourage organizations to keep roots in the area," says Textileather technology director Joe Murray. "Even a small business can have a huge impact, if it focuses on one institution and supports it well," says Mycogen CEO Jerry Caulder.

-- Researched by Phaedra Hise

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