“What do you call a cow with no legs?”
“I don’t know, Juan, what do you call a cow with no legs?”
You can’t help but chuckle picturing 4th grader Juan beaming as he shares this joke with Clayton Franklin, Vice President of Brand Management for CEV Multimedia. It’s become their ritual since CEV Multimedia partnered with Lubbock Area United Way and Guadalupe-Parkway Neighborhood Centers last fall. Thanks to their new employee volunteer program, CEV Multimedia employees can be found helping with homework, decorating walls, cleaning, and sharing jokes every Monday and Tuesday at the centers.
CEV Multimedia has always been a customer-oriented and philanthropic company in large because of owner Gordon Davis’s vision and direction. Last year, they approached United Way about how to further develop this culture by adding an employee volunteer program. “We’ve always had a United Way Campaign,” Clayton explained, “but we realize that not everybody can give monetarily and some prefer to actually give in time. So, we wanted to have an opportunity for our employees to do one or the other or both.”
Video Editor, Holley Baker, willingly took on spearheading the new initiative. She worked with United Way staff to identify employee interests, find the right volunteer opportunities, and begin sending employees out to volunteer. Holley told us, “The first few weeks of trying to get everything together was scary and exciting. I was very excited to be a part of this because I have never had a company that I worked for offer something like this… It’s been a breath of fresh air.”
In the six months since CEV Multimedia first started the program, 15 employees have volunteered 90 hours in homework, decorations, cleaning, and jokes. Allison Haynes was one of the first to volunteer. Her favorite part of the afternoon is sitting down with the kids while they eat the warm, free meal provided daily. “They all have a story to tell you,” she says. Allison gets a chance to share her stories, too. “When I come [back to the office], people will ask me about it. They haven’t quite stepped out there yet, but they are interested. I think people are curious. I think they want to do it, it’s just a little scary. They don’t know what to expect.”
Clayton agrees, “To me starting something like this is scary because [you’re asking] ‘Will it sustain itself?’ The last thing we want to do is let any of these groups down, but I don’t think that should keep you from not starting a program.” There have certainly been kinks along the way, like trying to recruit volunteers during the holiday and flu seasons. But so far, the company is finding that the rewards outweigh the deficits, and they’re making a significant impact.
Dela Esqueda, Executive Director of Guadalupe-Parkway Neighborhood Centers, says of her new volunteers, “When I see them at the Centers, I see they are focused on the task at hand. So often [the staff] start a project and have to break away to take care of another pressing challenge. We know that when they arrive as volunteer at the Centers, they really want to make a difference and they work steadily to complete or assist in completing the project. It can be simply wiping windows clean, sorting clothes, or cleaning the kitchen that makes a huge difference to our staff and the time we have to dedicate to the children who attend daily.”
There’s been a bit of a learning curve for everyone involved as we’ve built this new partnership, but the impact being made certainly makes it worth it. Holley summed it up nicely, “The one thing I would definitely say is that I would encourage any corporation that’s wanting to increase their philanthropic footprint in the community to try something like this. Even if it is just a one time event, it’s worth it. It’s scary, but it’s been a really rewarding experience in so many ways.”