FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) – The fireworks still went off. The parades wound through the streets. The money to pay for it all however, was not as easy to find for some cities this year.
After several years as a major sponsor of July Fourth celebrations big and small, Chesapeake Energy made changes in its support decisions this year. The change comes as the company is still strategizing to deal with low natural gas prices. Last month it laid off 70 area employees, put its Fort Worth headquarter building for sale or lease, and –– earlier in the year –– started focusing drilling in areas with more profitable liquid fossil fuels.
CBS11 talked with organizers in a dozen North Texas celebrations where Chesapeake has been a major sponsor in the past. Just two neighborhood organizations we reached said the company was able to be involved this year.
Arlington put on its show without a title sponsor this year. Grand Prairie did as well, and said city funds would cover the difference. Other cities including Fort Worth, Joshua and Crowley said they were able to find new sponsors to fund the celebration.
In the White Lake Hills neighborhood on the east side of Fort Worth, neighborhood association president Bill Hanna said he wondered how the company could afford to keep helping.
“When they gave it to us, they let us know, that not everyone got this stuff, and we really appreciated them doing it,” Hanna said.
White Lake received $1,000 for its small parade. The city uses the money for the parade, and picnic, and also deliver meals to residents who can’t get out for the holiday. The company donated another $2,000 worth of work to rehab the entrance signs to the neighborhood. White Lake sits just down the road from Chesapeake’s Tarrant County field office.
“These people have got a feeling about corporate responsibility,” Hanna said.
In an email, Chesapeake’s top local executive Julie Wilson said the company has not stopped its local philanthropy, but has had to carefully evaluate where its contributions would provide the most value. United Way giving was up by nearly 25 percent this year, she said. Seven North Texas high school students just received more than $50,000 in scholarships. The company has also donated this year to emergency responders, school programs and disaster recovery.
When asked about Chesapeake’s heavy community involvement last month, and how a slow down could affect that, Fort Worth’s mayor said she felt Chesapeake was here to stay and in the meantime others would step up.
“Fort Worth’s a very philanthropic town,” said Mayor Betsy Price. “Our other businesses will step in and do well with us.”
Chesapeake has also been a big community supporter during the Christmas holiday season. Wilson did not specify what the plans are for this season.