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Global firm focuses philanthropic efforts in Barrio Logan

Chemical giant CP Kelco has been a quiet, generous giver to the community

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The antiquated neighborhoods of Barrio Logan and Logan Heights are rich in culture and tradition. However, in the last few decades the communities have faced many social and economic hardships. Corporate philanthropy is just one way through which neighborhoods can prosper in tough economic times.

CP Kelco is one such business that thrives in the neighborhood of Barrio Logan and works closely with the community and nonprofits.

Located on Harbor Drive, CP Kelco is an Atlanta, Ga.-based manufacturing company that makes ingredients that can be used in a wide variety of industrial applications. The company’s Barrio Logan plant develops gellan gum and xanthan gum, both of which can be used as food additives. The company prides itself on using “innovative products and solutions through the use of nature-based chemistry.”

In September, the Logan Heights library music group “Project Unknown” took third place in the “Why I Need My Library” nationwide competition, for the 13-15 age category. The contest, which was sponsored by the American Library Association, awarded the team $1,000 to donate to the Logan Heights library.

When word of Project Unknown’s achievement reached the family and board of the J.M. Huber Corporation (CP Kelco’s parent company) the company purchased six Beach Cruiser bicycles with locks and helmets for each member of the group.

“They weren’t expecting something like this,” said Ady Huertas, the youth service librarian at Logan Heights Branch Library. “CP Kelco wanted to do something special for the students and acknowledge all their hard work. So that was really nice.”

A month earlier, in August, CP Kelco donated two bicycles to be raffled off to raise money for the library’s summer reading program.

One of the girls from team “Project Unknown” really wanted to win a bike at the raffle and was disappointed when her numbers were not called, said Huertas. So when CP Kelco presented her with the brand-new Beach Cruiser at the award ceremony, she was very excited.

In 2005, CP Kelco donated $50,000 to a volunteer program called “Friends of the Logan Heights Public Library,” to support the construction of the new 25,000-square-foot Logan Heights Branch Library.

Construction was completed in 2007. Today, the Logan Heights Library houses nearly twice as many books and videos than the old 3,967-square-foot library.

“We feel very fortunate for [CP Kelco's] contributions to the library. They have really shown a continued interest in our events and team programs,” said Huertas.

The monetary contributions given to the library have been great, but it’s the extended support by the staff that goes above and beyond, said Huertas.

Tony Gomes is someone who is often associated with CP Kelco’s philanthropic endeavors within the community.

Gomes is the manager of packaging/materials lead for CP Kelco’s Barrio Logan plant. He has worked for CP Kelco for 36 years and has been active in this community for more than 25 years.

“We work with the Barrio Logan neighborhood because it's our neighborhood too. We have operated in this community for over 75 years and pride ourselves in being a part of the solution here,” Gomes said.

“J.M. Huber Corporation prides itself in being a good corporate citizen wherever we operate. It is a part of our culture here to embrace our community as a second home. We spend a good part of our lives here daily.”

CP Kelco also supports the San Diego Elementary Institute of Science, located on Euclid Avenue. The program has helped many inner city students pursue their dreams of going to college and working in the field of science.

“This is a great program, it helps the students improve and learn skills that will support them in their current studies and future endeavor,” Gomes said. “We have also participated locally in supporting some of our neighborhood students with summer internships.”

Many of the company’s donations are never made public. And finding press releases or articles written about CP Kelco’s philanthropy is rare. However, many nonprofit organizations and community leaders in Logan Heights and Barrio Logan recognize CP Kelco as a philanthropic company.

CP Kelco also works closely with the Family Health Centers of San Diego “Adopt A Family” and “Baby Boutique” programs.

“Our relationship with CP Kelco has been built over time. It’s a true partnership,” said Jennette Lawrence Shay, director of government and community relations at Family Health Centers of San Diego.

In 2006, CP Kelco donated $30,000 to KidCare Express III – a mobile medical clinic that provides primary health care at no cost to students and the community.

“Our mission is to provide uninsured healthcare for everyone, and they [CP Kelco] have been helping us pursue that dream for over a decade,” Shay said.

In September 2010, the Family Health Centers of San Diego presented the “Spirit of the Barrio Award” to CP Kelco during its annual luncheon. The award acknowledged CP Kelco’s ongoing contributions and loyalty to the medically uninsured in San Diego.

“They give because they are part of the community and care,” Shay said. “You can always call on them if you need help.”



-Patruno is a San Diego-based freelance writer.

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