By Ricki Demarest
Lotis Markowitz is used to pitching in. The Hackettstown resident and mother of three boys has collected garbage along Warren County roads, made spaghetti for Boy Scout dinners and taught CCD classes for 20 years. She has also volunteered in hospitals and schools, worked as an EMT and been a “Big Sister.”
This month, the lady who has never left the United States will shatter her own comfort level and practice the art of giving back on a global scale. She is heading to South America to plant, prune and harvest cocoa plants. She will also be teaching some geography and serving
breakfast to children in the town of Guayaquil, Ecuador.
Markowitz is a member of this year’s Mars Ambassador Program, an international group of ten MarsWrigley Confectionery associates. Their mission is to help ensure sustainable cocoa production and improve quality of life for the people who supply what becomes mouth watering chocolate for the folks back home.
“While in Ecuador we will be visiting several cocoa farms and suppliers, one of which is the LaChola Farm which is owned by Mars Wrigley Confectionery,” said Markowitz, who is a Supply Analyst in the company. Her days there will be full of activity, she explained. “MarsWrigley Confectionery is a big supporter of the local community so while we are there we will be visiting a local prep school where we will be serving breakfast to the children, taking a tour of the facility and participating in activities with them.”
Markowitz’ tour will also feature a day at the “Parque Histórico” in Guayaquil. There, the associates, who are from the U.S., Spain, UK, Mexico, China, Belgium, Austria, and Italy will learn about the area’s natural biodiversity as well as its culture.
Mars started the Ambassador program in 2008 to provide onsite support to the farmers and communities around the world who supply raw materials for MarsWrigley’s candy, snack foods, pet foods and other products. Employees apply for programs which focus on issues ranging from sustainable coffee, tea and rice production to conservation and health management. To date, 600 associates from 50 countries have volunteered more than 36,500 hours to support
organizations and communities who are part of the MarsWrigley Confectionery family.
Markowitz said she was delighted to be chosen for the Ecuador project because it was the first time she had ever applied to an Ambassador program.
“I have been interested in cocoa since I started at Mars five and a half years ago and learned more about cocoa, farming and Mars’ role in sustainability,” she said. When the MAP assignments opened this year, she knew the Ecuador trip was the one she wanted to be part of.
“I am very interested to see how they live and work since their country is so much different than ours. I’ve worked with children most of my life in some volunteer position or another and having this opportunity to go to another country and spend a day working with the children is very exciting to me,” she emphasized.
In addition to helping others, Markowitz expects the trip to impact her personally and professionally.
“I’m shy by nature – that said I will say hi to anyone I pass in the hall but to have a conversation with people I don’t know is difficult for me. I am looking forward to interacting with not only the team I am going with but the teams we will meet along the way.”
Although she’s never gone this far away from her family for this long, she expects everyone will be fine.
“I am happy that Mars gives me the opportunity to personally grow, give back to the communities where we work and get a hands-on experience of a lifetime!” she said. “I am looking forward to the relationships I will build with the associates that are on my team and
getting to bring what I learn back to share with my colleagues and the organization. Not to mention the bonds she will forge with the children by making the world a little smaller.
“We are all bringing some gifts to share with them,” Markowitz explained. “One of the gifts I will be bringing are beach balls that look like world globes, so they can see where we are all from.”
Markowitz summed her efforts up by saying, “at Mars we believe a great business gives back to its people, the planet and the communities in which we operate.”
By Ricki Demarest