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US:Ford ends matches to schools

Ford ends matches to schools

Staff writer PEGGY WALSH-SARNECKI contributed to this report.

Ford Motor Co.'s charitable arm will no longer match donations to colleges and universities by employees and retirees, workers were told in an e-mail Monday.

The Ford Motor Co. Fund, the nonprofit philanthropic arm of the Dearborn-based automaker, gives away $75 million to $80 million a year.

In operation since 1963, the matching program allowed workers and retirees to donate up to $5,000 a year to the school of their choice, and Ford then would match the donation dollar for dollar. About $3.1 million of the $78 million spent by the Ford fund last year was on the advanced education matching gift program being discontinued.

Sandy Ulsh, president of the Ford Motor Co. Fund, said Tuesday the fund's board of trustees decided in September that the money would be better redirected to other education areas, such as K-12 math and science programs.

"It was a strategic decision," Ulsh said.

She could not yet say whether the fund would spend less or more on charitable programs next year.

The University of Michigan has received $1.9 million from Ford, as part of the matching program, since U-M began its $2.5-billion fund drive in 2004. The matches totaled $321,000 during the last fiscal year (ending June 30, 2005) alone, said Judy Malcolm, spokeswoman for development.

"And we've got three more years of the campaign," Malcolm said. "I think that by saying right off the bat that we're losing $321,000 a year, that's certainly significant."

No other major changes were slated for the fund, Ford spokesman Oscar Suris said. He noted that only about 2% of eligible workers and retirees participated in the program, and Ford had little input into where the money was spent.

"We'd prefer to have more control," Suris said. "So we can earmark it to those things that are more relevant to Ford Motor Co."

The Ford fund depends on an annual contribution from Ford, and it's not been made clear how the company's struggles might affect charitable giving from the company.

Ford is profitable for the first nine months of the year, earning $1.9 billion, but it is financially struggling in critical areas.

Last year, Ford earned $3.4 billion during the first nine months of the year. And the company's losses in the company's North America car- and truck-making division are mounting. Including special items, Ford posted a pretax loss of $1.5 billion in the United States, Mexico and Canada during the third quarter, bringing year-to-date losses to $2.1 billion.

Shawn Kahle, president and CEO at the New Detroit Science Center, said Tuesday she realizes how difficult things are at the auto companies but remains optimistic about the amount of money Ford will contribute to the museum. The science center is currently in talks with Ford about how much the center will receive next year and she has not been told of any impending cutbacks.

The Ford Fund has long been a financial supporter of the New Detroit Science Center. This summer saw the premiere of Ford Free Fun Days, which offers free admission and special hands-on activities for children one Sunday each month. In 2001, the Ford Fund contributed $1.5 million to the science center's capital campaign and has helped fund the museum's annual gala and its five educational classrooms. Ford Motor Co.'s vice president of environmental and safety engineering, Sue Cischke, also sits on the center's board of trustees. Kahle estimates the museum receives $75,000 to $100,000 a year from the Ford Fund.

"We know that science is a wonderful tool for engineers, and engineers are important to autos and to Ford," she adds.

My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.

My next Ford.....
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