Three Area Workplaces That Make Giving Back a Priority
Sometimes it feels like it’s a cold world out there – especially now, when our country seems more divided than ever. But nothing can unite us faster, or warm our hearts better, than giving back to the community in which we live. In fact, not only does research show that volunteering can help fend off loneliness and depression by helping us stay socially connected, a 2013 study from Carnegie Mellon University showed that adults over 50 who volunteer regularly are less likely to develop high blood pressure.
Finding the time and energy to devote to charitable causes can be difficult. That’s why it’s so crucial that workplaces lend a hand. Happily, companies that donate resources while making it easier for their employees to give back are fast becoming the new business model.
According to the National Philanthropic Trust, corporate giving rose to $18.46 billion in 2015, a 3.9-percent increase from 2014. Meanwhile, American Charities reported that almost two-thirds of employers in 2013 matched employee payroll charitable contributions, a 58-percent rise from 2006.
Here at home, PinnacleHeath System, Tröegs Independent Brewing and PSECU (Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union), three of the Harrisburg region’s most well-known and highly regarded companies, are proving that doing well and doing good aren’t mutually exclusive.
With four campuses providing everything from primary care to complex surgeries, PinnacleHealth System is one of the Commonwealth’s most lauded health care systems. But PinnacleHealth isn’t content with only caring for the patients who walk through their doors. Last year, the not-for-profit gave away $17 million in money and in-kind contributions to area charities. Among the recipients of the $500,000 cash donations were the PA Coalition Against Rape, Salvation Army and Habitat for Humanity. In-kind assistance totaling $700,000 benefitted recipients including the Harrisburg School District and in Perry County, where volunteers from PinnacleHealth provided free health screenings for students.
Speaking of volunteering, more than 50 percent of PinnacleHealth’s employees reported some 15,000 personal volunteer hours last year, doing good works such as coaching Little League, training service dogs and preparing taxes for seniors.
Tina Nixon, PinnacleHealth Vice President, Mission Effectiveness and Chief Diversity Officer, believes “volunteering helps with team-building. Our staff appreciates an organization so willing to allow them to take a few hours off to go read to kids, for example. For the past several years, we’ve done the 500 Men Reading Week, and some of the doctors and leadership have been involved with that. And they come back with a sense of fulfillment because they’re able to engage and interact with the community at a different level.”
PinnacleHealth volunteers make a real difference in not only the greater community they serve, but also in a very real sense with individual lives. Several years ago, PinnacleHealth established a bi-weekly health clinic at Paxton Street Home, which provides housing and support for people with mental illnesses or intellectual disabilities.
Notes Paxton Ministries Executive Director Jodie Smiley, “It can often be difficult to get our residents out to medical appointments, so having the PinnacleHealth team here to meet residents in their home means better, more consistent medical care. Dr. Van Scoy and Theresa Sellers are a great team who truly care about our residents. This partnership has resulted in improved health for our residents.”
Tröegs Independent Brewing
From its humble beginnings two decades ago in an old Paxton Street warehouse, Tröegs Independent Brewing has morphed into a major player on the craft-beer scene. The company now boasts 175 co-workers, expansive digs in Hershey and distribution throughout the Mid-Atlantic. But owners Chris and John Trogner, who grew up in Central Pennsylvania, remain committed to their community, even coining a word, “ALEtruism,” to describe the company’s partnerships with local nonprofit organizations.
“We enjoy helping to improve communities where our fans and co-workers live and play, and we do our best to contribute something meaningful,” says Chris Trogner. “The brewery is only one part of the Tröegs community. We also support local vendors, producers and causes we believe in. These groups are more than partners; they are our friends, and collectively we can work together to make Central Pennsylvania flourish.”
It’s not surprising that a company as playful as Tröegs would find unique ways of supporting local causes, like the Tröegs Hop Dash 5K, a costumed run through downtown Harrisburg, which last year raised more than $60,000 for the East Shore YMCA. And then there’s Red Steam Common Ale, a commemorative beer brewed for the Hershey Volunteer Fire Department. Tröegs donates $1 of every pint and growler sold at the brewery to the department; additionally the company pledged $25,000 in 2015 to the firefighters’ capital campaign.
But Tröegs donates much more than money, according to Chris Trogner.
“One recent example of how our co-workers get involved was a collaboration with Manada Conservancy,” he explains, “a local land trust dedicated to preserving the natural and agricultural resources of Dauphin County. Over the last two years, we organized a joint clean-up of the Swatara Creek, whereby volunteers cleaned up trash and planted native shrubs to help create a greenway along the base of the creek. …We have another community outing planned with Manada Conservancy for 2017 that will tie-in with Earth Day.”
When it was founded in 1934 by 22 state employees, PSECU (Pennsylvania State Employees Credit Union) had just $90 in assets. With more than 400,000 members currently, the credit union now boasts about $4 billion in assets, and PSECU isn’t shy about leveraging a bit of this pot of gold for the greater good of residents across the Keystone State. They’ve sponsored the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women campaign in Harrisburg, the Lehigh Valley and Lancaster; the Capital Region Heart Walk, for which PSECU raised more than $28,000 last year; Children’s Miracle Network at several hospitals in the state; and Junior Achievement, to name just a few beneficiaries.
The credit union also encourages its employees to volunteer with an ingenious program that gives wellness points to help offset the cost of health insurance in exchange for hours spent working in the community. And volunteer they do – such as PSECU Creative and Communications Manager Shauna Powers, who has devoted time to charities including the Race Against Racism.
“I was also a participant and team captain for this past year’s AHA Capital Area Heart Walk,” Powers details. “This is an important cause for me, having a child born with congenital heart defects. Today, my daughter is healthy and thriving after open-heart surgery and great medical care early in life, but at the time, I was overwhelmed and sick with worry. The social worker at the hospital told me about Parent to Parent of Pennsylvania, which connected me with parents of children with similar health problems. Having someone to talk to when I felt so alone really helped me. So later on, I decided that I, too, wanted to lend an ear to other parents as a peer-to-peer supporter.”
Talk to any of the recipients of the credit union’s giving, and their gratitude is clear.
“PSECU and outstanding corporate social responsibility are synonymous,” says Central Pennsylvania Food Bank Director of Development Jennifer Powell. “From their donation of time and talent on our board and committees to packing boxes in our warehouse, to providing financial education to our member agencies, PSECU gives back. As fund donors, their contributions have enabled thousands of meals for our neighbors in need. PSECU is committed to our community.”