At Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network, employees put their heart into their work. They also pour tremendous hours into the communities where they live through volunteer service.
Volunteerism is encouraged as a way to strengthen the places Blues employees call home and do business. To help employees find the right volunteer fit for them, a series of volunteer expos were recently held at Blues facilities across the state.
This effort to connect employees with organizations who need them as volunteers was a partnership between the BCBSM Community Responsibility team, BCN Community Outreach and UAW/Joint Programs.
More than 700 employees met with representatives from various non-profit organizations at the expos to learn about volunteer opportunities. We talked to some of the non-profit representatives at our Grand Rapids expo, who shared why volunteers are so critical to what they do.
Catholic Charities West Michigan: Volunteers are needed to work at Catholic Charities’ God’s Kitchen food and pantry programs and their popular Soup’s On event, held annually. In 2013, 4,266 volunteers spent a total of 44,458 hours helping carry out CCWM’s mission.
“There’s no way any of what we do could happen without volunteers,” said Administrative Assistant Becca Ryan.
Baxter Community Center: Volunteer coordinator Sonja Forte said volunteers are the lifeblood that this Grand Rapids neighborhood refuge thrives on.
“Volunteers are what make Baxter run,” Forte said. “If it wasn’t for volunteers, we wouldn’t function.”
Whether it’s in their child development center, health clinic, mentoring program, or marketplace, Baxter puts volunteers to work to help families in need.
United Methodist Community House: This community gathering space provides preschool and after school programs, but volunteers are mostly needed to help out with programming for seniors over age 60. Staff said they need readers and volunteers to offer companionship, but they’ve also worked with volunteers who want to provide special programs.
“Our volunteers bring their gifts and talents to the table,” said Bobbie Hilliard, Outreach and Assistance Coordinator.
Clark Retirement Community: As a non-profit retirement community, Clark relies on volunteers to keep costs low for residents, said Volunteer Services Coordinator Wade Burge.
Volunteers are needed to work in the Chatterbox Café, to greet and direct visitors, and for clerical work. Volunteers also assist residents with non-medical care such as dining, transportation, cleaning, and companionship. Maintenance needs are also supplemented through volunteer efforts.
“We find ways to use volunteers creatively to help enhance services for our residents,” Burge said.
United Church Outreach Ministry: UCOM relies on volunteers to help unload trucks and stock the shelves at the main food pantry program for Grandville, Wyoming, and southwest Grand Rapids. Their “Homework House” tutoring and mentoring program is also celebrating 30 years of matching students with volunteers.
“We have well over 1,000 volunteers who come and work with us every year,” said Erik Keener, Assistant Executive Director. “We simply would not exist without our volunteers.”
Ronald McDonald House: The Grand Rapids Ronald McDonald House location houses over 500 families per year. It welcomes parents whose children need to stay at a local hospital, allowing them to be close by at what’s potentially one of the most trying times of their lives, said House Services Director Megan Priester.
With only four full-time and seven part-time staff, volunteers are needed to bake, cook meals, serve as shuttle drivers, and work to prep the residence for the arrival of guests.
“Without volunteers, those families wouldn’t be served,” Priester said.
More Volunteer Opportunities
At the other expos, these organizations were on hand to talk to employees about their programs:
- Area Agency on Aging Meals on Wheels
- Boys & Girls Club
- Greater Lansing Food Bank
- Big Brothers Big Sisters
- American Cancer Society
- Arise Detroit
- Forgotten Harvest
- March of Dimes
- St. Vincent de Paul
- Greening of Detroit
- Judson Center
Not only do the expos encourage future volunteerism, they also recognize volunteers of the year. The BlueStarz 2014 Employee Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Tina Gaworecki, project consultant, Business Solutions, for her volunteer work at The Parade Company. Also honored were award runners-up Shana Hines, for her volunteer service with St. Vincent De Paul and March of Dimes; Sadawn Norwood, for service with Ronald McDonald House, and Lynne Shephard-VanSledright for her service at Kids Food Basket.
Do you volunteer your time to better your community? Tell us about worthy organizations near you in the comments.
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Photo credit: Julie Bitely