Naturally philanthropic

Northwest Natural CEO Marty RifkinEvery day, Vancouver-based Northwest Natural Products makes vitamins to nourish people across the country and worldwide – but they don’t stop there. CEO Marty Rifkin and his wife, company President Kate Jones, are also dedicated to giving philanthropically as a business and as individuals.

Since 1982, Northwest Natural Products has manufactured nutritional supplements in Vancouver. Their products are sold nationwide and in Europe, Asia and Central America. Their gummy vitamins for adults as well as kids are incredibly popular, and Northwest Natural Products are available everywhere that vitamins and supplements are sold.

Making a product that helps make people healthier seems like a sound model of doing good by doing business, but Rifkin is not content to stop there.

“We believe in trying to improve the physical aspects of people’s lives,” said Rifkin. “Even making a difference in one person’s life is important.”

Though the company does not have a formalized process for soliciting or reviewing giving opportunities, Rifkin said that they consider many projects and opportunities each year.

“Because a lot of our products are for children (children’s vitamins, gummy supplements, etc.), a lot of our philanthropy and the projects we get behind do tend to focus on children’s causes.”

The company has long been a supporter of Share Vancouver, largely because it seemed that an organization that helps feed people, especially children, was a natural fit with their business of providing nutritional supplements.

“We’ve supported Share a lot over the years, especially the backpack program,” Rifkin said. The backpack program, which gives children in need a backpack full of healthy food to sustain them over a weekend away from school, has grown to the point that the organization is providing more than 1,000 backpacks every weekend.

“We’ve supported them for so long, and they needed a spot to make these 1,000-plus backpacks. We saw an opportunity to help them meet a need, and we stepped in.”

By “stepping in,” Rifkin and Jones led the way to secure donations that made it possible for Share to fund much-needed upgrades at their new facility, the old Timber Lanes bowling alley on Andresen Road. Those upgrades included a dedicated space for the backpack program.

Additionally, they provide hundreds of Christmas boxes every year for Share’s families in need, have helped give additional support to Share’s capital fund and helped CDM Services purchase space from Share to construct an adjoining headquarters building for their operations. CDM provides day and in-home services to elderly and disabled residents in the county.

Though they have a strong commitment to Share, the Northwest Natural Products and its owners have also given generously to other organizations and individuals. In some cases they donate product to help in impoverished or disaster-stricken areas, and in others they provide financial support.

Other important projects include the Good Family Orphanage in Odessa, Ukraine, as well as the local Boys and Girls Club, and scholarships for local students who need help to complete or further their education.

“Over the years,” said Rifkin, “we haven’t put a limit on what we support. We’re very project specific, and try to find things we feel we can be helpful in. If we did it by budget, then there are some important things we might not have done.”

Asked why philanthropy is so important to his company, Rifkin paused.

“It’s always just been part of our operations to some degree or another,” he explained. “We try to make a little bit of a difference where we can, to help improve the physical aspects of people’s lives.”

The company has only recently begun even mildly promoting their own charitable giving. According to Rifkin, recognition is not an important part of the equation.

“We love this community. And where we can help, we try to do it.”

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