Our Neighbor of Choice program supports the work of local nonprofit organizations that strive to improve the quality of life in communities where Merck has a presence.
Established by Merck in the 1990s, the Neighbor of Choice program helps to build relationships of trust and support with local nonprofit organizations and residents of the communities in which we operate by responding to needs identified by the community itself. Merck takes seriously the shared responsibility of helping to improve the quality of life of neighbors in need.
In 2011, Merck invited nonprofit organizations located in 24 communities in which Merck has a major presence to apply for support. In accordance with the Neighbor of Choice program guidelines, a total of $2.7 million in grants were awarded to 112 nonprofits in support of a wide range of health, social service, educational, civic, arts/cultural and environmental initiatives.
In early 2012, Merck refined the program guidelines to more closely reflect the needs of local communities. The program now prioritizes support for organizations located in close proximity to Merck sites and offers two types of funding:
- Grants of up to $50,000 can be awarded to support programs that promote the health and well-being of community residents in alignment with the mission and priorities of The Merck Company Foundation and the Office of Corporate Philanthropy
- Grants of up to $25,000 can be awarded to local nonprofit organizations that serve a wider range of community needs, including through arts, environmental and educational programs
The Neighbor of Choice program has one annual application cycle for each global region.
In 2011, the Neighbor of Choice programs supported organizations in the U.S. and around the world. Below are examples of this funding.
In Memphis, Tennessee, a grant to the Brinkley Heights Urban Academy supported the Infusionomics program, which improves the economic prospects of at-risk urban youth from low-income communities by increasing students’ financial literacy and teaching them entrepreneurship skills. Students launched school-based businesses and engaged in hands-on, personal-money management through a mini-economy that trained them in such critical skills as budgeting, saving, investing and credit management.
In Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, Neighbor of Choice supported the Evangelical Community Hospital in providing free mammograms and breast-cancer-screening education for 120 uninsured and underinsured women living in Susquehanna Valley.
In San Juan, Puerto Rico, 55 students created an educational newscast in which they reveal the problems they faced related to drug trafficking and drug abuse in their schools and communities. Their broadcast reached more than 1,600 students, staff and families, and the project was shown to have had a positive effect on participating students' attitudes toward drugs.
With support from Merck, the Adjustment to Vision Loss Project of the New Jersey-based organization Heightened Independence and Progress provided direct assistance to individuals with vision loss by facilitating the development and maintenance of an extensive network of peer-support groups in the 14 counties of northern and central New Jersey.
The Neighbor of Choice program provided support to the Community FoodBank of New Jersey's Kids Cafe and BackPack programs. With support from Merck, these programs together provided more than 3,000 low-income, school-age children with healthy meals and backpacks containing supplemental weekend food for their families.
Through the Domestic Violence Legal Representation Program, New Jerseybased Partners for Women and Justice provides legal assistance to low-income victims of domestic violence seeking restraining orders, safe visitation and custody arrangements, and financial support. Representation is provided by a highly trained staff attorney funded by the Neighbor of Choice program.
Neighbor of Choice support for the Hudson Perinatal Consortium in Jersey City, New Jersey, enabled expansion of its Community Doulas program, which trains women in the local community to become doulas and to care for at-risk expecting women. The doulas’ work has led to better birth outcomes, including reducing the incidence of preterm labor, increasing birth weights and promoting breastfeeding.
With funding from the Neighbor of Choice program, the Circle of Life Children's Center Pediatric Palliative Care/Clinical Services Program was able to recruit a bilingual pediatric social worker who provides direct clinical services to seriously ill children and their families.
Funding for Earth Korps Inc. helped with the removal and recycling of pollution accomplished through the Shenandoah River Clean-Up Project. Since May 2010, with support from Merck and other sponsors, Earth Korps has removed nearly 50,000 lbs. of garbage (and counting) from the Shenandoah River.
In Italy, Merck's Neighbor of Choice supported the Soccorso Clown program at the Bambino Gesù Hospital, in Rome, which uses specially trained professional entertainers to reduce stress and fear among child patients. Regular visits by the clowns have reduced the need for pain medication among hospitalized children, facilitated the work of the hospital staff and filled the halls with laughter.
In Drammen, Norway, a grant to Papirbredden Innovasjon allowed that organization to partner with its local library to develop and distribute equipment for elderly clients living at home. The program provided the elderly with computer games that stimulate cognitive and motor skills, slow the onset of dementia and increase well-being.
Support from Neighbor of Choice for the Circuit Entrepreneur of Oeiras program in Carnaxide, Portugual, provided training in entrepreneurship to 20 women living in poverty who also had been the victims of violence. Eight of these women were further supported in starting their own businesses.
In the community of Haar, Germany, the Starke Eltern-Starke Kinder® (Strong Parents, Strong Children) program provides education about maternal and child well-being to young families and families who have emigrated from other countries. With support from Merck and local volunteers, families of newborns and those with children under the age of 1 receive a "Welcome to Life" package; outreach; and counseling as well as a chance to participate in workshops on such topics as parenting skills, play-based language learning for toddlers, and German language and literacy courses (for mothers from other countries).