Written by: IA Business Advisors
During the month of November, while most of us have our eyes set on our Thanksgiving dinner and, dare we say, Christmas, we want to take some time to show thanks and be humble for what we have. Giving back to your community through volunteer work or donations is a great way to show thanks and give back to those who may not be as fortunate as you.
IA has been volunteering in the community since we began in 1996. We have asked each member of our team to describe the ways in which they have given back to their communities in their lifetime. The key here is intention; volunteering consistently is amazing, but it is important to remember that doing so is not feasible for everyone’s schedule. We want to celebrate all kinds of giving back, big and small, old and new, and hope that it will influence you to do the same.
I have spent most of my volunteering hours spending time with animals and children. I find their innocence and openness to be refreshing in a world that seems to be moving faster and more chaotically. I spent most of my time volunteering at YAPS (Yucaipa Animal Placement Society) which is an animal sanctuary for dogs and cats. They take in animals from around the Inland Empire and beyond that are currently in high-kill shelters. An animal sanctuary means they are a no kill sanctuary, so animals are safe there to await their new homes. I also volunteered at San Bernardino Humane Society, Wolf Mountain, Forever Wild, and a private equine sanctuary. I spent a brief time working with special needs children at a pre-school as well.
While in college, my sorority participated in many volunteer activities around our campus and our community; however, our two main philanthropies were RAINN and Relay for Life. During the fall semester we would dedicate most of our time to raising awareness and funds for RAINN, as well as hosting a week-long awareness event at our school. During this time, we would begin planning for Relay for Life in the spring. These kept us relatively busy, but we would also volunteer to help at after school programs, clean up initiatives, and various other programs that would need our help in that moment.
I used to volunteer as a lifeguard for a Cub Scouts summer camp called Weekend in Illinois. I also based my senior thesis on advocating for adopting shelter animals by creating bumper stickers and an infographic that was printed in the school newspaper.
My community service work really began in 1996 when I joined Rotary, whose motto is “Service Above Self.” From that time forward, I have been a Rotarian and increased my participation in community service functions across the US. We have a robust community service initiative at IA, whereby we will sponsor an employee at his/her chosen organization, including time, service, and financial donations. My activities through IA include IKECA, IncubatorEDU, and Boys & Girls Club just in Illinois. It is impossible to imagine a life where I or my company is not heavily associated in community service.
Brian and I have donated to the INCubator Program at Dundee Crown for the past 3 years. This program is an exceptional way for high schoolers to learn problem solving skills, business solutions, and develop their ideas into reality. From our experience, many of the students really embrace the knowledge that both Brian and I bring to the conversation.
Some of the contributions have been to help the students flesh out their ideas, providing critical thinking and feedback along the way. Other contributions have been in graphic design work (from Jerrod), and others have been contributions to their annual Shark Tank event where I helped evaluate the teams with other “sharks.” But, perhaps the most notable contributions were all the support after the class ended. After the teams won and got funded, the real work began. Brian and I both contributed (as much as we could without doing the work for the teams) to help build the companies that won. We’d help with marketing strategies, corporate structures, policies and procedures, task management, and website support. It’s been an amazing experience helping the students with their business ideas for the past 3 years.
My favorite thing about helping with the INCubator program is the feedback from the faculty and parents. They say things like, “Because of the INCubator Program, my kid comes home and won’t stop talking about their time in the class and building their business. It’s a big change from sitting around the dinner table and hearing crickets when we ask what they learned in school.”
Giving back to the community is an essential element of becoming a part of the world we live in. Because my world primarily revolves around my family I donate my time to assist with their activities. In the past I volunteered for Junior Achievement where I would go into the classroom and teach elementary school children about the world of business. I have also volunteered as a coach for the YMCA in both biddy ball basketball and volleyball. Of course, one of my favorite programs to be involved in is the SMART Reading program. I try to also volunteer for school field trips whenever possible.
I can say that many people have been touched by cancer, whether it has been a friend or family member; it is a disease that I personally hope will be cured within my life span. I personally have lost my mother at a very young age to the disease and this compels me to volunteer for the Relay for Life. In the past I served on the committee to run the Relay Store for four years. Once I moved to Illinois, I jumped on the chance to participate on a corporate team. It is a wonderful event to remember those who we have lost and to celebrate those who have survived the disease. So, at some point in the near future, I look forward to participating in my next Relay for Life event.
The importance of community service has been stressed on me since a young age. My father served in multiple municipal governments working as a Director of Community Services. Consequentially, I spent a significant number of weekends during my childhood volunteering at many of the city cleanup and community outreach programs my father managed. One of my childhood keepsakes is actually a box full of my collection of t-shirts from the various events I volunteered at. The events ranged from park beautification projects to wrapping and delivering Christmas presents to underprivileged families.
Perhaps my most meaningful experience came this past summer, when I had the privilege of volunteering at Dream Street for a week as a camp counselor. Dream Street is a summer camping program for children with cancer, chronic, and terminal illnesses. The kids in the program are given the opportunity to enjoy activities they would normally be restricted from due to their illness, while Dream Street supports their unique needs with an on-site medical center staffed by nurses and doctors – all at no cost to the campers. The week-long retreat takes place at a sleep away camp in the Santa Barbara mountains, where the kids have the opportunity to ride horses, swim, enjoy live shows, complete arts and crafts, and attend several dances. Most importantly, the children can spend time with others who are just like them and share their life experiences, which serves as a reminder that they are not alone. While I’ve been involved with the foundation for some time, this was my first chance to work as a camp counselor, and if you can’t already tell it was an incredibly moving and emotional experience!