Volunteering at work more than a day off

Meg Colan (left), Mark Pilgrim and Karen Cooper are all members of the Corporate Volunteer Council with Trident United Way.

So you and your boss are hammering side by side, and he hits his finger instead of the nail. Once you check for blood flow, you both laugh about it. It’s not a situation you would normally find in the average workplace, even if you work in a field where hammers are involved.

It’s because you both are volunteering to help out a school or other organization, and you are using skills that may not be your best talents. Instead of pounding a keyboard, you are out in the fresh air, swapping stories as you work.

For some employees, volunteering at work means getting out of work for a day, at least the first time.

After that, many people get the idea that not only are they giving back to their community, but it just feels good to help someone out.

“It just gets you on the inside,” said Belinda Nolan, a financial employee for Hagemeyer North America.

“It’s amazing how much you learn,” said friend and co-worker Onnie Norris.

Both are participants in Trident United Way’s Corporate Volunteer Council, a group of like-minded business people who have helped, or want to start, by volunteering through their companies.

Both were at the quarterly luncheon at Pearlstine Distributors and heard Anita Zucker, CEO of The InterTech Group, emphasize how the benefits of volunteerism help create a more successful company.

The company posts more than $3.6 billion in revenues, so she knows what she is talking about. She said that her husband, the late Jerry Zucker, built the company culture based on the spirit of giving back to the community. She shared their mission statement: “The InterTech Group Inc., its member companies and all officers and associates seek to adhere to the fundamental belief that exhibiting honesty, integrity, respect and fairness to all will enable us to honorably continue our long legacy of success.”

She, like many of the business people attending the meeting, said that volunteering makes work more enjoyable, creates leaders in the organization and helps maintain a family-focused culture.

Karen Cooper was there and is interested in starting a volunteer group in her small company, Adams Outdoor Advertising. It has only four people, and she views this as a great way to get their people out in the community. Not only does it feel good to do so, but it will help spread the word about the company to potential customers.

It’s not always easy to get a volunteer project going, as Jennifer Curry found out. She works with US Airways, and she laughed about the trouble with even getting a meeting together because there were so many different work schedules.

“We want to get into more fundraising because that’s going to be easier,” Curry said. “Our people have great hearts.”

Charlotte Anderson, vice president of 211 services for Trident United Way, said there are portable projects that answer that need. Not everyone has to wield a hammer. Volunteering doesn’t have to mean taking a day away from work.

The enthusiasm of everyone at the meeting showed just how much our community cares about helping others and that there are so many ways to do it. Sometimes, it’s just finding the right project for the right business that makes all the difference.

Zucker ended her presentation with a quote from Anne Frank that sums up the mission of the Corporate Volunteer Council.

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

Reach Stephanie Harvin at sharvin@postandcourier.com or 937-5557.