Like the farmers it serves, the MKC Cooperative is dedicated to helping the the communities it calls home thrive.

"At MKC, we're really committed to helping the rural communities that we work and live in prosper and kind of prepare for tomorrow," said Nichole Gouldie, MKC communications and brand manager out of Moundridge.

Typically, MKC focuses those philanthropic efforts in four core areas — developing leaders in communities, alleviating hunger, enhancing agricultural education and improving community safety. Over the past five years, Gouldie noted MKC has donated more than $500,000 toward such programs in its communities (with about 30 locations around Kansas).

Recently, local MKC branches have been involved in such efforts — with MKC donating $4,000 to the Harvey County 4-H Leadership Development Fund this month and $1,800 to the Harvey County Salvation Army last month. The missions of both those organizations fall under the company's core focuses, but its efforts don't stop there.

Grassroots efforts are also taken on by MKC annually, led by the local employees themselves. That includes a school supply drive started this year, helping with the Salvation Army's Angel Tree project and coat drives hosted in previous years.

"I think it's very cool that it's an employee-led committee that does some of the drives, so it's not necessarily one office doing it all. It's employees from across our entire footprint gathering together to make our local communities better," Gouldie said.

On top of the monetary donations to local food banks (with $17,000 presented to 11 sites across Kansas this year), Gouldie noted MKC holds an annual food drive to help generate more support for those organizations. This year, the Walton, Peabody and Burns locations collected 250 pounds of nonperishable goods to donate to the Harvey County Salvation Army.

Additionally, highlighting the efforts of local employees, Gouldie noted there is one local worker in Peabody who holds a bake sale in conjunction with MKC's fundraising efforts. The funds raised through that bake sale are then added to what is donated by the company.

Since its first annual food drive nearly 10 years ago, MKC has donated over 40,000 pounds of nonperishable food items and $179,000 to local food banks. These monetary donations are supported through a matching funds program with the Land O’ Lakes Foundation.

“This is an opportunity for us to assist the local food banks that provide meals and essential health care products to many people within our trade territory,” said Dave Christiansen, president and CEO of MKC. “We are committed to addressing food insecurity in the communities we operate in and proud to support our local hunger relief agencies.”

Meanwhile, funds totaling more than $175,000 have been donated to 4-H since 2006 and that support is greatly appreciated, with Harvey County extension agent Anne Pitts noting this year's funds would be used to help with countywide programing in the form of a series of lessons about caring for animal herds.

With employees, local residents and member farmers contributing to MKC's fundraising efforts in some cases, Gouldie sees the company's initiatives as coming full circle in a way, and encourages continued participation in that.

"Our communities are there for a lot of people when they need it," Gouldie said, "so just being proactive and taking even the littlest effort — whether it be your time, talents or resources — just to give back, I think, is pretty incredible."