Interview: Why Rhode Island’s L.L. Bean Gives Back

Image: Statue of L.L. Bean's famous Maine Hunting Shoe outside store in Cranston, RI.

More than just a boot.

On an unseasonably warm November morning I walked into L.L. Bean’s newest store, located in Cranston’s Garden City Plaza. I wasn’t there to buy a flannel shirt or a pair of boots—and as much as my wife would appreciate it, I wasn’t there for a mountain bike to get more exercise. My purpose for visiting the retailer was simple: to learn more about the store’s recent workplace giving campaign benefiting United Way of Rhode Island. I sat down with L.L Bean’s Jessie Barber to find out more about her experience.

 Jason: Thank you for taking the time to talk with me today. I have to ask, what’s with the giant boot in front of the store?

Jessie: We get that question a lot. When Leon Leonwood Bean founded the company in 1912 he only made one product, the Maine Hunting Shoe—better known as the L.L. Bean Boot; it became iconic. Although the original 16 foot tall boot sits outside our flagship store in Freeport, Maine, Rhode Island is one of only a few stores nationwide lucky enough to also have one. Everyone loves it.

Jason:  Thank you for clearing that up. Your store recently held its first workplace giving campaign for United Way of Rhode Island. How was it received by the staff and was there the sense that they were really making a difference?

Jessie:  Around half of our employees were familiar with United Way. The campaign was a great opportunity for the others to learn about your mission and for the entire staff to see how we can help people right in our own communities. I was explaining to them that 100% of the money they donate to United Way of Rhode Island goes to help people right here at home.

Jason:  That’s right; 100% of each dollar donated to United Way of Rhode Island goes to help people in the community. What was the outcome of your store’s campaign?

Jessie:  Being a small store, and our first year, we set our expectations low at $750, but we exceeded those expectations by almost double, raising just over $1,300. The employees who gave were very generous.

 Jason:  Speaking of generosity, L.L. Bean is known as a charitable organization having donated $6 million to land conservation efforts, $4 million to education programs, and $6 million to human services in just the last decade. What in the company’s culture lends itself to altruism?

Jessie:  The company culture is based around healthy living and following core values. Every day we strive to succeed for our community, customers, and employees; community outreach is very important to L.L. Bean. As an organization and as individuals we pride ourselves on giving back.

Jason:  What causes do you personally care about?

Jessie:  I have two younger sisters, we were all lucky enough to have grown up in a community with great public schools, but I know that is not the case for everyone. Education is important to me.

Jason:  Absolutely, education is important. United Way of Rhode Island hosts the Afterschool Leadership Circle and supports programs like the Hasbro Summer Learning Initiative. Recently, UWRI’s Women’s Leadership Council launched a fundraiser for summer learning programs in the Ocean State and promised a $50,000 match. What impresses you most about L.L. Bean’s relationship with United Way and their commitment to helping others?

Jessie:  L.L. Bean is a very successful company, for them to make giving a priority means a lot to our entire staff and makes us proud to be a part of it. It’s wonderful that L.L. Bean is working with United Way of Rhode Island because United Way helps people in our own communities and that’s important to us as Rhode Islanders.

Jason:  On behalf of everyone at United Way of Rhode Island I’d like to thank you and your coworkers for your generosity.

Jessie:  It was our pleasure and we look forward to working with United Way of Rhode Island in the future.


Learn more about how UWRI helps people right here in the Ocean State by visiting us at

By: Jason Boulay, Communications Coordinator, Strategic Marketing and Communications