There’s more to Comcast that just DVRs, high-definition signals and triple-play bundle options.
Over the weekend, the cable giant plans on showing its communal and philanthropic side with the 11th annual “Comcast Cares Day.”
Comcast outposts in major cities nationwide will participate in the day of service. Locally, Comcast will help beautify and retrofit a number of public parks, recreation centers, and public schools. One of its largest projects will be the cleanup and modernization of Frankford High School.
More than 400 volunteers will pitch in at Frankford, and NBCUniversal’s “Today Show” plans on doing several live hits, Comcast spokesman Neal Scarbrough said. There will be landscaping, new picnic-area installations and painting going on, and the gym will also receive a makeover.
Olney Elementary School and other centers in the neighborhood will see similar improvements.
“Olney’s a pretty big project. The NFL Network will also be there to make a presentation,” Scarbrough said. “And we are working with a Hispanic-based [school] turnaround organization. And the East Frankford Boys and Girls Club project is important because a lot of work is done on the inside, and they have redone everything.
“They had ceiling tiles falling down and shades scarred up,” Scarbrough continued. “They will replace all of the furniture and will also do projects outside.”
Over the previous decade, more than 360,000 volunteers had worked more than 2.1 million hours on projects in Philadelphia alone, Scarbrough said. This year, Comcast expects more than 67,000 volunteers to work on the more than 650 projects. There are 39 states, plus the District of Columbia, taking part in Comcast Cares Day.
It’s a way for the conglomerate to connect with the community, Scarbrough said.
“For a long time, we’ve always felt that a part of our philanthropy should go directly to the communities where we work and live,” said Scarbrough. “This is our signature day of service, and we’re trying to have an impact.”
Comcast Cares Day has its origins in Philadelphia. It was born out of Philadelphia Cares Day, a similar community-based initiative of the mid-’90s. Comcast joined Philadelphia Cares Day, but Comcast organizers always wanted their own namesake community cleanup initiative.
“People see the [glass-skinned skyscraper serving as Comcast’s national headquarters] downtown, but we really do business one community at a time,” Scarbrough said, mentioning that Comcast is working on social issues as well, including bridging the digital divide. “We are trying to invest in the community year-round, focused on [nurturing] tomorrow’s leaders.”
Comcast Cares Day will also help several organizations that aren’t always in the mainstream scope. It will spruce up South Philadelphia’s Masoni Center and McPhearson Park, while also replacing the lighting and scoreboard at Camden’s north Little League field. They will also assist a homeless veterans’ outfit in West Philly.
“Downtown, on Friday night, we will have a ‘Green is Universal’ event, where we build a huge virtual garden,” Scarbrough said. “Each person that comes by and makes a [healthy environment] pledge, a piece of the artwork will grow. It’s an interactive, walk-by event, but it really captures the imagination.
“Not every project is about nails and paint.”
Scarbrough believes Comcast’s vision and philanthropy is authentic. Skeptics may view this as Comcast gaining more of a stranglehold on mindshare — and thus, reaping even more profits, Scarbrough points to the bottom line in defending the cable giant.
“It starts with the vision that philanthropy is community-based. Events like this do allow us to be seen, but that is not the purpose,” Scarbrough said. “This is really a give back; it’s about leveraging our relationship with the community and demonstrate that we are here.
“This is really a way to crystallize our involvement with the community. We are building a lot of smiles.”