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Making a Difference: Plexus helps build better world with Fox Cities Habitat for Humanity

Global company makes local impact, combining funding and voluntarism for charity home build

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May 14, 2024

NEENAH – Plexus Corp. has a global workforce of more than 20,000 employees.

Yet, Senior Director of Brand Experience Kristine Groholski said in light of its scope and though the company works with many well-known brands, Plexus itself is likely not a household name.

“We partner with leading brands in the world that can design, manufacture and service products,” she said. “So, you won’t find the Plexus brand name on any products because everything we do is on behalf of our customers.”

Though Groholski said Plexus is perfectly fine going largely unknown outside the industry, the company’s dedication to giving back to communities simply cannot be kept secret.

“(Charity) is foundational to what we do,” she said. “For our customers, we help produce their products. But for our communities, it’s really, ‘how are we giving back to building a better world?’ That comes through a variety of different things.”

Chief among Plexus’ charitable efforts this year, Groholski said, is the company’s sponsorship of a complete home construction project in Appleton for a family of six via Fox Cities Habitat for Humanity.

“We broke ground in April – construction is underway,” she said. “Just a couple of weeks ago myself and our executive team were on site, and we helped raise the first wall of the home – which was a really fun and exciting event.”

The Plexus team’s efforts, Groholski said, go beyond funding the project and the ceremonial wall raising.

She said each Habitat for Humanity home is led by the organization’s expert builders, who guide volunteers – regardless of prior construction experience – through each day’s specific tasks.

Construction on Plexus’ 2024 sponsored house through Fox Cities Habitat for Humanity is already underway, with an anticipated completion date of August. Submitted Photo

What’s unique about Plexus’ sponsorship, Groholski said, is that enough of the company’s employees are willing to volunteer to sufficiently staff the entire build.

“I think we’re one of the only companies that does the charitable (donation) and the volunteering, which was a really awesome opportunity for (Habitat for Humanity),” she said. “It’s just such a good impact for all of us as leaders, but also for our team members to contribute. I think it’s something we’re going to keep doing year over year.”

A tradition of altruism
Groholski said Plexus has formalized its philanthropy by way of the Plexus Charitable Foundation and a company-sponsored volunteer program.

She said employees can submit proposals for paid time off to contribute to the causes of their choice.

“Our voluntary time off program is intended to be team oriented, and provides community engagement opportunities that are meaningful, purposeful and helpful to those in need,” she said. “At the same time, we recognize participating in these activities enriches and inspires the lives of our team members.”

In 2023, Groholski said Plexus employees volunteered more than 19,700 hours, while 2024 is on pace for nearly 30,000 hours.

“We document and report that so we can track the impact we’re having as a global organization,” she said. “But equally important to this, is we often find that team members will rally together and go out and give back together – so we also see incredible opportunities for team building, in a really fun way that also has a payback to our business outcomes.”

Groholski said this year’s charity home build continues not only Plexus’ extensive practice of monetary and voluntary giving, but also its recently established partnership with Habitat for Humanity – a partnership that was initiated in 2023 at the suggestion of Plexus employees.

“What happened was our Women in Network employee resource group attended a Habitat for Humanity Women Build event, and they were incredibly moved by the experience and the impact they had made on a local family,” she said. “So, this group brought forward a proposal to our Plexus Charitable Foundation and said, ‘hey, we have an idea – what if we could have the Plexus Charitable Foundation pay for the contributions of an entire home build – and what if we could rally Plexus employees to submit their volunteer time off to help go and build the home?'”

The result, Groholski said, was an “incredibly successful” build in Neenah – near Plexus’ international headquarters – completed last summer.

In 2023, Kristine Groholski said 74 Plexus team members volunteered well more than 600 hours of their time to complete the Fox Cities Habitat for Humanity build. Submitted Photo

“I had the privilege through that experience of meeting the family – a mother and a daughter – and help welcome them to their new home last July when they moved in,” she said. “It really brought a tear to my eye, because you could see the excitement of this little girl who was getting one of her first homes. Watching her cut the ribbon with our executive team and Todd Kelsey – our CEO – was one of the most moving moments of my career.”

The money, time and effort donated on behalf of the company, Groholski said, would later move Fox Cities Habitat for Humanity to recognize Plexus as the charity’s 2023 Community Partner of the Year.

“We were really proud to receive that award in February, because it showcases the impact and the significance of both the Plexus Charitable Foundation and our employee volunteer time-off program to come together to do something really significant for the community,” she said.

The decision to repeat the company’s contributions for another home build this year, Groholski said, had been made well before the encouragement of the organization’s award.

“(Habitat for Humanity)’s been a really impactful program for us,” she said, “And as long as our employees remain committed and passionate about the experience, I do think we will continue to have this be one of our key events throughout the year.”

Enthusiasm for service
Groholski said the present schedule for this year’s home build should see the recipient family moving in by early August.

She said though construction timelines are notoriously less than certain, the supply of volunteers is more than assured.

“In 2023 when we did the home build, we had 74 Plexus team members who volunteered well more than 600 hours of their time to complete that build,” she said. “This year we actually had so many people who wanted to give back that we had no trouble filling the volunteer hours. So, we got an additional way for Plexus to get involved, and said, ‘how about we coordinate and deliver meals for the on-site crews?'”

Groholski said other area beneficiaries of Plexus’ contributions over the years have included ThedaCare, the YMCA, Boys and Girls clubs, the Neenah Animal Shelter and Catalpa Health, among many others – many recommended by employees.

Plexus employees volunteered more than 19,700 hours in 2023. Groholski said 2024 is on pace for nearly 30,000 hours. Submitted Photo

“Anyone can submit a cause that they’re passionate about,” she said. “(We then) vet those and ensure they’re rooted in both delivering back to our Plexus mission and vision, as well as local impact – and I think Habitat for Humanity is a really great example.”

Groholski said the voluntary efforts offer a reprieve for employees, which in turn energizes them, as well as the communities they serve.

As the leader of all things related to the Plexus brand – internally and externally – Groholski said her role constantly involves the clear communication of the company’s passion for service.

“When it comes to our philosophy toward charitable giving or voluntarism, it really relates back to our vision to help create the products that build a better world – and central to that vision is really how we give back to our global communities in which we operate,” she said. “Our team members are out doing just that – helping build a better world.”

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