It’s a ripple effect. Something so small, like a note of encouragement or a small care package, can mean so much to someone. Someone who may not hear those encouraging words or have someone to lean on. And that small thing becomes something bigger.
That’s one thing that resonated with GRAEF employees after their recent cross-country Lunch, Learn + Do event. While their foundation focuses on financial contributions such as supporting STEM-based careers, they are also leaning more towards local volunteerism to help others in the multiple cities that they have offices in.
Speaking towards the event, where Midwest teams packed flu kits and teams in Florida packed first-aid kits, Liz Hughes reflected fondly. Several speakers from United Way and Family Promise of Waukesha County told GRAEF employees stories about real people experiencing homelessness in our community.
“We were able to connect the story with what we were doing, and it’s not just a story,” Liz Hughes, Administrative Assistant at GRAEF said. “These are people in Waukesha County. They’re our neighbors. Hearing the stories and then immediately packing the kits after it made it a lot easier to make that connection. These kits were staying local. They weren’t going to some national branch.”
The kits packed in the Milwaukee office stayed local to our four-county region. Meanwhile, kits packed in other offices such as Orlando and Miami stayed local to their communities. Guided by United Way, GRAEF’s cross-country Lunch, Learn + Do was hugely successful, not just in kits packed, but also in further bonding employees in multiple cities and states.
“We’re all participating in this giving together,” Liz said. “And it’s staying in whatever community they’re in.”
It's no surprise that GRAEF stays involved in their communities’ health and well-being. John Kissinger, President & CEO of GRAEF, serves on several nonprofit boards and committees throughout Milwaukee, including United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County. In addition to financial contributions, John and GRAEF know that small volunteer efforts can go a long way too.
“United Way is very important to us,” said Liz. “And what we offer to staff throughout the year are more focused volunteer opportunities that we make as easy as possible.”
Opportunities like the kit packing volunteer experience. In addition to this Herculean volunteering effort, GRAEF also gives all employees Volunteer Time Off, or VTO. In Milwaukee, employees are encouraged to participate in their annual Workplace Giving Campaign, as well as United Way’s MLK Day of Service and Holiday Giving Tree. Working with United Way’s Volunteer Engagement team, GRAEF developed a year-round volunteer activity calendar for their employees to participate in with their VTO.
GRAEF’s impact on the community and on their employees is positively felt. This year, homelessness was the focus of GRAEF’s annual Workplace Giving Campaign and the real-life stories that employees heard really meant something to them.
“We all walk around our communities, and we see people experiencing homelessness, and I was thinking about some of those people when I was packing these flu kits,” Liz reflected. “Those people could get this tea, honey, those types of things. That made it that much more impactful.”
GRAEF’s volunteer efforts won’t be ending anytime soon, and they are already looking forward to more opportunities to participate in as a group, or for employees to use VTO hours towards. Volunteering, as felt in the cross-country kit packing event, is an easy, feel-good way to bond as a team.
“It’s recognizing that each of us can make a difference – and that there is a difference to be made, even if we don’t see it,” Liz said. “And taking the time to take a step back and see that there is something we can do no matter how small. Change doesn’t have to happen in these big, grand gestures. It can be small actions like packing some tea bags and they still make a difference.”
United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County thanks GRAEF for their volunteer efforts and contributions to the communities that they live and work in. Their recent cross-country kit packing event reminds us that to live better, we must Live United.
At top: GRAEF employees in Milwaukee; Top right: GRAEF employees in Milwaukee pack flu kits; At left: GRAEF employees in Sarasota pack first aid kits; Bottom right: GRAEF cross-country employees during Lunch, Learn + Do
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