Following last year’s devastating hurricane, Citizen launches a novel charity initiative.
By Ashley Muldoon Lavin
The reports out of Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria are staggering. Months after the Category 4 storm made landfall, hundreds are feared dead, and even more remain missing. Crucially, large swaths of the island still lack clean water and reliable power. But there is a glimmer in the darkness.
The Citizen Watch Company has partnered with Good 360, one of America’s largest nonprofit organizations, to deliver 5,000 solar-powered Luci EMRG lights to victims—not only in Puerto Rico, but also in the U.S. Virgin Islands, another region reeling after this year’s catastrophic hurricane season. Citizen originally imagined this as a one-for-one program, in which it would send a light to a needy area for every watch purchased. But once Hurricanes Irma and Maria battered the region, executives decided to call an audible.
“We contacted Good 360 and said, ‘You can’t wait for us to do this as a one-for-one. As soon as they come off the dock, we are giving you those 5,000 lanterns,’” says Ellen Seckler, Citizen’s Executive Vice President of Marketing “When we saw all the devastation that was going on there, it was so apparent that this is where we had to go.”
Good 360, which specializes in helping companies send supplies to areas in need, knows all too well the logistical challenges created by natural disasters. Getting the Citizen-provided Luci lights out of port and onto the ground won’t be easy, but the nonprofit says that the solar-powered gadgets will soon be en route to their final destinations.
“The Luci Lights will be placed with Good 360’s nonprofit partners who are doing work on the ground and who will distribute the lights where they are most needed,” says Shari Rudolph, chief marketing officer for Good 360. “Some of the destinations earmarked for the lights will likely include individual family homes, community centers, and schools. We ensure that the products are placed where needed so that they have optimal impact and do not go to waste.”
Charity efforts aren’t anything new for Citizen. (Previously, the brand has supported the March of Dimes, the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative, and the National Merit Scholarship.) But this initiative, which the company is calling “Get a Light, Give a Light,” has resonated on many levels. Citizen timepieces operate using Eco Drive technology, which generates power from any light source; the company had already been using the Luci lights in stores to educate their customers about how their watches worked.
“When you’re looking at the watch you can’t see the solar cell underneath it,” says Seckler. “But by having the transparent Luci light at point of sale, we were able to say, ‘This is just like our watches, using this light-powered technology.’ And then we thought, Maybe we can do something more with this.”
The situation in Puerto Rico and U.S. outlying territories might demand even more still. Experts are now predicting that recovery efforts will likely continue years, if not decades. So Citizen is already considering extending the campaign.
“We really want to help bring that area back to life,” says Seckler. “This [campaign] is something that will allow people to read or to work or to do something they need to do, and we are very happy to contribute to that . . . When you’re walking around with a name like Citizen, you have to think about the citizens. The people. I think it’s our responsibility.”