Creature Comforts’ Get Comfortable Campaign Aims to Make an Impact on Athens
Craft beer is leaving its adolescence stage and venturing into adulthood. The maturing of craft brewers bodes well for the average consumer, but it also opens the market up to judgement by a higher societal standard. Craft beer can no longer skirt by as an emerging economic trend; it is now a prosperous and influential part of the U.S. economy, and it deserves to be treated as such. Outside of bottle releases and new taprooms, craft beer can make a verifiable impact on their local communities through outreach programs and charitable donations. Athens-based Creature Comforts is doing just that through their Get Comfortable campaign.
Sometimes it feels like the craft beer community exists in an insulated bubble, with the brewers and patrons so inter-meshed that we lose sight of the potential impact that craft beer can have on people outside of its loyal customers and compatriots. Since opening its doors in 2014, Creature Comforts aspired to use their brand as a way to benefit the larger Athens, Georgia community, not just those that drink their Athena Berliner Weisse or Tropicalia IPA.
The largest arm of this social advocacy mission is their Get Comfortable campaign, which aims to “to become a unifying anchor in the business community to drive awareness, increase engagement, and provide support for nonprofits combating the Athens community’s greatest needs as it relates to living comfortably.”
The 2018 campaign is their largest one yet and starts on January 10. The goal is to help the under-privileged and food-insecure members of their community through donations and partnerships with local non-profits and charities. In a community that has an over 36% poverty rate, nearly double the state average, the resources that Creature Comfort generates through its campaign are vital.
This year, Creature Comforts is working with six different organizations: Advantage Behavioral Health, Athens Area Homeless Shelter, Athens Community Council on Aging, The Ark, Chosen For Life and Mercy Health Center.
The campaign lasts all year but the season of emphasis happens from January 10 – April 4; during this time, Creature Comforts will donate 100% of its Wednesday “community day” profits towards the Get Comfortable fund which will support these local organizations. Along with on-site sales, Creature Comforts is also bringing back its popular Get Comfortable IPA and will sell branded merchandise to benefit the fund, along with working with for-profit businesses.
It doesn’t stop there. To add stability to the campaign and their larger charitable ambitions, Creature Comforts hired Matt Stevens to be their full-time Community and Culture Director. In his role, Stevens will serve as the head of all programs related to the brewery’s community involvement and culture development, which includes Get Comfortable. Stevens has been an integral part of the Athen’s non-profit space in previous roles, so he knows how important Creature Comfort’s social commitment is to its larger community.
“Athens is a tale of two cities: one which is polished and resourced, the other where there’s a legitimate struggle playing out… One in three children grow up here below the poverty line… But we have a lot of resources here: a large, influential university, a vibrant business community, and a hearty nonprofit network doing important work. That’s why the mission of our Get Comfortable initiative is to become a unifying anchor specifically in the business community… We hope to offer this campaign as a simple way for them to participate.”
Offering local businesses a collaborative platform to give back is at the crux of Creature Comfort’s charitable focus, and when you have a local craft beer staple that is respected by its community members, other businesses listen. “We at Creature Comforts have a lot of hands, a lot of heart, and resources to spend, we just need the heads in the room helping us to understand the best investment. In other words, let’s let the pros be pros. We simply want to help the most critical work go further faster,” said Stevens.
Along with his external role, perhaps Stevens’ most intriguing responsibility is helping shape Creature Comfort’s internal work culture. For Matt, his goal is simple:
“I simply hope that Creature Comforts becomes one of the best places to work in the state. Conversely, I guess I’m wanting our employees to think, I’m so glad I’m here. I think this is important because, frankly, we’re talking about people’s livelihoods here.”
2017 was a year of (much-needed) social upheaval across numerous industries like tech and food service, and it’s no shock that the craft beer industry is going through a similar type of struggle as it learns to adapt to today’s world, look no further than the rash of lewd beer names. Hiring someone to help the company stay up-to-date with our increasingly complex society and its norms just makes plain business sense. Executives that focus predominantly on its business’ culture are common in basically every U.S. industry – craft beer had been lacking, but I think we’ll begin to see more culture-focused hires across the industry soon.
At the end of the day, Creature Comfort’s move to expand their Get Comfortable campaign and to hire a Culture Director are positive signs for the larger craft beer community. Craft brewers can no longer rest on their suds-soaked laurels; they need to be held to a higher standard that highlights its role in their larger community, not just among their constituents.
“I think expectations have indeed risen, and that’s a good thing… companies, regardless of industry norms, are asking themselves the questions, ‘What breaks our heart? And what can we do about it?'”
Feature image courtesy of Creature Comforts