Growing Children’s of Mississippi, Growing Mississippi’s Children and Growing Our Future

Woman on podium

A Culture of Giving

Growing Children’s of Mississippi, Growing Mississippi’s Children and Growing Our Future

Like his father before him, Joe F. Sanderson, Jr. is much more than just the Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of a Fortune 1000 company, he is a leader. Not just the leader of a company comprised of more than 12,000 people spanning five states and sixteen different communities, but the leader of an entire culture. A culture of giving.

Operating with the same conviction of the former feed and seed store’s founders, Joe Sanderson, Jr., the third generation to lead Sanderson Farms, leads very sincerely— by example. An example that has been passed down for generations and one that the entire Sanderson family holds near and dear to their hearts.

Influenced by the Sanderson family values, the third largest poultry producer
in the nation grew to realize its own success through a dedicated culture of responsibility to the communities in which it operates, or, as the company likes to call it, a culture of giving. Giving back to the people, communities and organizations who helped it to realize its success.

As a company founded on the principles of honesty and integrity, Sanderson
Farms operates within a distinctly defined culture of giving which guides every decision and determines its method of operation. Joe Sanderson guides the company with the knowledge that a true sense of corporate responsibility is as important as achieving growth, producing the highest quality products and providing unparalleled customer service.

“Our success is about much more than just becoming a bigger company and corporate profits,” said Sanderson. “We believe success is best measured by meeting our responsibility to our people, our process and our products, as well as to our customers and our shareholders.”

Giving is not just a culture at Sanderson Farms, it is a way of life or, simply put, a way of conducting business. In fiscal year 2015 alone, Sanderson Farms donated more than $1.1 million to charitable organizations, including more than $337,000 donated to the communities in which it operates through the United Way.

“If you can imagine a company moving to a community and improving the quality of life for thousands of individuals and families, that’s what Sanderson Farms did for Lenoir County [North Carolina],” said June Cummings, Executive Director for Lenoir/Greene United Way. “Not only their corporate gift, but their employee gifts to United Way have made a tremendous difference.”

For every dollar that employees donate to United Way, Sanderson Farms matches their donation dollar-for-dollar. In addition to monetary donations, the company encourages community engagement amongst all its employees and supports local food banks and hunger relief programs with their chicken products. Since 2012, Sanderson Farms has donated nearly 1,000,000 pounds of poultry to charitable organizations around the nation.

“Sanderson Farms has done everything they said they would do and more,” said Bill Ellis, Director of Parks and Recreation for Kinston, North Carolina. “Before they even opened their doors, they donated 40,000 cubic yards of dirt for a soccer complex. They come in and clean up along the riverbank. From the plant manager down to the line employee, they really want to make the community a better place.”

For Sanderson Farms, being a responsible corporate citizen in the communities in which the company operates simply wasn’t enough to satisfy the sights of its altruistic leader, Joe Sanderson. Since 2013, the company has served as title sponsor of the state’s only PGA TOUR championship, the Sanderson Farms Championship, which has raised more than $2.7 million in the last three years for its primary beneficiary, Friends of Children’s Hospital, a fundraising organization for the state’s only children’s hospital.

Joe Sanderson initially championed the cause due to the event’s impact on pediatric health care offerings within the state, as well as the economic impact the tournament has had upon the state as a whole. After three successful years, Sanderson Farms agreed to extend its title sponsorship of the tournament for another 10 years following the conclusion of the 2016 championship.

For Joe Sanderson, even a charitable commitment of that scale wasn’t enough to fulfill his passion for giving back to the very same hospital that treated his then four-year-old granddaughter, Sophie Creath, who was suffering from a chronic case of hereditary pancreatitis. With the help of his wife Kathy, Joe Sanderson embarked on a charitable crusade of epic proportions, leading a $100 million capital campaign for Children’s of Mississippi, an umbrella organization that includes Batson Children’s Hospital and all pediatric care at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

“After witnessing the competent, loving care of Dr. Paul Parker [pediatric gastroenterologist] and the team at Batson, we realized the importance of this wonderful hospital,” said Kathy Sanderson. “We were so impressed with the hospital and with the whole team because they were so genuinely caring.”

“Sophie was in severe pain, but she was never afraid because she had such loving care,” said Kathy. “It means a lot to us to know that every child in Mississippi is able to receive that kind of care and that no family is ever turned away.”

Easily the most ambitious campaign in Children’s of Mississippi history, the funds raised will help the medical center to expand and update its space dedicated to pediatric care including an expanded and renovated neonatal intensive care unit, additional rooms for the pediatric intensive care unit, additional operating suites, as well as the creation of a pediatric imaging clinic. Plans also include a new pediatric clinic to make outpatient care more convenient and comfortable for families, and the potential expansion of the nationally-renowned Children’s Heart Center.

“Children’s of Mississippi must grow so Mississippi’s children can keep growing,” said Joe Sanderson.
“Knowing that Mississippi provides the highest level of care for its children will certainly be a comfort to any business or family considering Mississippi as a potential home. This campaign will mean better outcomes for children, better research and more doctors staying in Mississippi because they have the right facilities in which to practice. This campaign isn’t just for the children who need it today. It’s a campaign for future generations and a strategic, long-term plan for our state’s future.”

Taking very seriously their call to champion Mississippi’s children both today and for future generations to come, Joe and Kathy Sanderson took it upon themselves to lead, by example, the very same culture of giving that they hope to inspire in Mississippians all across the state. Not only are they heading up the largest fundraising campaign in the history of the hospital, they have also donated the campaign’s first large gift of $10 million, a tenth of the overall campaign goal, over the next five years.

“Kathy and I feel like Children’s of Mississippi is the most important and most worthy charitable endeavor in the state at this time,” said Joe Sanderson. “This will be the largest gift we have ever made because we felt like this project was the most important to the state and to the children of Mississippi now and for years to come.”

For Children’s of Mississippi, Joe and Kathy Sanderson were clearly the visionary leaders necessary to foster a culture of giving in the heart of every Mississippian from the Delta to the Coast. “An extraordinary plan needs extraordinary leaders,” said Dr. LouAnn Woodward, University of Mississippi Medical Center Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs. “Joe and Kathy Sanderson were the first people we thought of. We knew if anyone could help us reach this lofty goal, Joe and Kathy, with their track record of dedication to Mississippi, to Children’s of Mississippi and to UMMC, could.”

Each year, Children’s of Mississippi cares for more than 150,000 children, never turning away a patient for any reason, including their family’s ability to pay. Treating patients suffering from minor illnesses to those with the most serious conditions like premature birth, cancer and cardiac conditions, for many Mississippi children, Children’s of Mississippi can be the difference between life and death.

“When the story is told about the children’s need of today and for the future, I think people will be willing to help make the project become a reality,” said Joe Sanderson. “Of all the things to which they could give, this project will be one of the most important and last longer and impact our state and the children of our state more than anything else they could do.”