The artifacts in the lobby of American Textile Co.’s facility in Duquesne show that in this family-owned business, innovation is as important as tradition.

DUQUESNE, Pa. – A portrait of Charles Ruttenberg, who founded the company in 1925, hangs alongside a blueprint for a cloth ironing board cover, which American Textile patented and produced 10 years later.

A golden shovel hangs on the wall, a testament to the company’s 90 groundbreaking years. “We find real solutions to problems,” says Blake Ruttenberg, American Textile’s executive vice president and grandson of the company’s late founder. “This is more than just white bed pillows or comforters. This is innovation at work.” That innovation is possible, says Lance Ruttenberg — Blake’s older brother and American Textile’s CEO — because the company draws from a deep well of experience. “When I first started here in 1991,” he says, “the average employee tenure was 30 or 40 years. That culture of longevity still exists. Our grandfather established it, and today we carry it onward.”

For this family business, giving back and demonstrating corporate responsibility are among its traditions. The company turned to The Pittsburgh Foundation’s Center for Philanthropy for guidance. American Textile operates facilities in the U.S. States, Asia and Central America, supplying national and international retailers like Macy’s, Target, Kohl’s, Sears, Kmart and Wal-Mart. And with that global reach, says Lance, comes global responsibility. “Our family has always been philanthropic. As (Blake and I) came into the company, we knew we’d have an opportunity to build on that tradition. It was really important for us to make commitments in the communities in which we work, but we wanted do so in a disciplined, constructive way.” In 2014, the brothers found what they were looking for at The Pittsburgh Foundation.

As the leading expert in the nonprofit landscape in southwestern Pennsylvania with a nearly 75-year track record of strategic philanthropic support, The Pittsburgh Foundation guides businesses and corporations as they develop signature philanthropy in the region. Staff from the Foundation’s Center for Philanthropy help businesses select nonprofits that focus on issues that align with business goals, such as workforce development, education or food insecurity. Companies may create scholarship funds in specific fields that relate to their mission, and staff are welcome to serve on scholarship and grant-making recommendation committees.

Experts at the Center for Philanthropy provide extensive insight into regional needs and help businesses reduce administrative burdens associated with philanthropy. Services include hosting board and staff strategy retreats to develop a plan to meet philanthropic goals; educational support, such as nonprofit organization site visits, and customized research reports on issues of interest.

“We had two goals: to create positive change and to become personally involved,” says Lance. “The Pittsburgh Foundation allowed us to accomplish both.” Having established a donor advised fund, today the Ruttenbergs’ grantmaking reflects their passion for ingenuity as well as their reverence for tradition. Whether supporting “distraction therapy” techniques that reduce anxiety at children’s hospitals or funding outdoor fitness facilities in communities around the country, the brothers are committed to becoming strong corporate citizens who improve the quality of life in the places in which they work.

“I think that as we continue developing our strategy with The Pittsburgh Foundation, we’re going to have an even greater impact,” says Blake. “We’re becoming more focused and more structured. We’ve always appreciated and admired what others have done for our community. And now that we’re capable of stepping up ourselves, we’re going to do just that.”

Learn more about The Pittsburgh Foundation’s Center for Philanthropy.

Established in 1945, The Pittsburgh Foundation is one of the nation’s oldest community foundations. As a community foundation, its resources comprise endowment funds established by individuals, businesses and organizations with a passion for charitable giving and a commitment to the Pittsburgh community. Grantmaking benefits a broad spectrum of community life within Pittsburgh and beyond.

By Ryan Rydzewski – Contributor

Pittsburgh Business Times