by Praveena Ramaswami

Toyota Motor North America Research and Development Center (TMNA R&D), headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan, continues to reinforce its commitment to giving back in areas where their Team Members live and work. Toyota shifted their focus from working with multiple organizations to seeking out engaging and impactful community partnerships in comparison to traditional sponsorships. Two current Toyota partnerships include Ann Arbor Summer Festival and the Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley. 

Toyota and the Ann Arbor Summer Festival are working together on the Festival Footprint Initiative to reduce the environmental impact at the festival and encourage community awareness and action through arts and education. The Ann Arbor Summer Festival is an independent non-profit dedicated to presenting a three-week world-class celebration of arts and entertainment that enriches the cultural, economic, and social vitality of the region annually in June. Along with Toyota, they partnered with multiple organizations to take significant action that aligns with the initiative. The Ann Arbor Summer Festival Footprint Initiative encourages safe waste removal,  ridesharing, compostable corn-based cups, and adopted additional partnerships with food vendors that use compostable and recycled products. Through these actions, the partnership believes they can turn the Ann Arbor Summer Festival into a zero-waste festival within the next five years. “Toyota continues to be a key partner of the festival, encouraging and supporting unique programming that stimulates social impact. We’re grateful for this opportunity to host community conversations around an issue that has such far-reaching impact,” said Festival Executive Director Mike Michelon. “This funding allows us to partner with well-respected organizations, such as the Huron River Watershed Council and the Ecology Center, to find new ways of approaching the issues facing our community while laying the groundwork for our own zero-waste implementation. We are lucky to have such an innovative funder who sees the benefit of ensuring this community event is here for generations to enjoy.”

For over ten years, Toyota has been involved with Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley, an organization that develops affordable housing for lower-income families in Ypsilanti, Michigan. Toyota’s partnership includes executive-led teams of 25 volunteers working eight to ten hours every Saturday for twelve weeks to build two neighboring homes. Toyota has provided more than $500,000 in funding for full-house renovations as well as more than 19,400 employee volunteer hours. “We’re not talking about a fresh coat of paint and some minor repairs,” says Praveena Ramaswami, Toyota R&D Community Relations. “It’s a full gut-and-go, all the way down to the studs of the frame. It’s helpful to have engineers on hand to do this work. They measure three times before they cut anything. They make sure everything lines up. When inspectors come back a year later, the Toyota houses are always right on the mark.” Toyota has been renovating in one Ypsilanti neighborhood for over eleven years, helping add to a vibrant community. “The continued commitment of Toyota to help renovate homes is invaluable in our work toward creating affordable homeownership in Washtenaw County,” says Sarah Stanton, executive director of Habitat Huron Valley. “Toyota’s investment in our organization has made a tremendous impact on our communities.” This initiative has helped many hard-working, deserving families, including single parents trying to work and raise children. It’s nourishing to have corporate citizens and organizations band together to help members of the community flourish in what becomes a safe and supportive community environment.

Toyota believes that the best way to create meaningful and sustainable community partners is to focus its investment dollars on programs designed to make a significant impact on the communities where they live and work. Many people know Toyota as a car company, but they’re so much more than that. They are passionate about serving the communities where they work, live, and play. Toyota helps by giving their time, knowledge, and resources to support local organizations. And they go beyond meeting their partners’ day-to-day needs — they work with them to create tangible, sustainable solutions that address societal challenges.

Praveena Ramaswami
Praveena RamaswamiAuthor

Praveena Ramaswami, leads the Community Relations at Toyota Motor North America Research & Development headquartered in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
She works on developing impactful strategic partnerships with communities in Michigan with which they can have a 360-degree engagement – a combination of dollars, volunteerism, and sharing of Toyota know-how. She is engaged in the community in Washtenaw County both professionally and personally.