“My parents got me involved very young,” she said. “Helping others was part of the culture of my family.”
Now 30, the content and training implementor for Detroit-based Sachse Construction is mentoring high school students once a week during work hours through nonprofit Winning Futures, which helps get students on a career path. “I have the opportunity to work for a company that shares my values and share something that is larger than myself,” she said.
Cathy Kosin, senior vice president and market leader for Bloomfield Hills-based Oswald Companies, said the company has created and established monthly volunteer opportunities. One of its primary causes: the Detroit-based Pope Francis Center, which feeds the homeless. Three to five employees sign up each month to volunteer at Pope Francis.
“They can work in the kitchen, at the counter dispensing food or cleaning tables. They do what is their comfort level,” Kosin said.
This relationship came about as a direct result of an employee suggestion, Kosin said. A nonprofit may be chosen because an Oswald employee is on the board or had a hand in its founding. For employees who prefer to get involved in the suburbs, they came up with another option: reading to preschoolers at one of Pontiac-based Oakland Family Services’ locales.
“A bunch of us have purchased books and left them behind for the children,” Kosin said. “It’s an hour commitment once a month with three or four people participating each time.”
Kosin said employees are welcome to participate in the monthly service opportunities as often as they like, with roughly half the 30 employees in the office taking part at least once over the course of the year. “We see about 75 percent of our employees actively giving back every month in the area that feels most fulfilling to them.”
Kosin said there are additional benefits to corporate volunteerism — it creates opportunities for employees to interact with each other and build relationships, and it helps with employee and client retention.
“I feel that, now, volunteering is much more of the culture and fabric here. Millennials like giving back. They are often driving corporate culture. It is more organic and grassroots and not forced than it has ever been,” she said.
Opportunities with youth
Sachse couldn’t agree more. He said the company focuses on helping youth with life and trade skills. Its largest fundraiser is its annual golf outing at Fox Hills Golf & Banquet Center in Plymouth. This year, it raised $240,000, half of which went to Junior Achievement’s Journey to Jobs.
“We partnered with JA and brought 500 Detroit high school students to a shed at Eastern Market to give them specific information on how to get into a trade school — names, phone numbers, everything,” Sachse said.
The other half of the fundraiser went to the Downtown Boxing Gym Youth Program. Sachse, a founding board member of the east side gym, said, “Our volunteers do amazing work there.” Recently, 200 employees showed up to build bikes for the youth who use the gym.
How do Sachse employees influence which nonprofits to support? “Any team member who has (a cause they want to help), the answer is always yes. The flip side is we formed a Sachse Social Mission Committee, comprised of multiple generations. The committee follows organizations that provide Detroit youth access and opportunity,” he said.
“Book drives, food drives, neighborhood clean ups for Life Remodeled — team members want to show up and help. There’s something for everyone,” Brack said. “It is done in a friendly way with no pressure.”
Sachse said team members who give back are more engaged, and the company’s volunteerism and giving programs help attract and retain talent.
Talk to Detroit corporations about giving and Life Remodeled often pops up as a recipient. Life Remodeled CEO Chris Lambert admitted that his organization, with the mission of positively transforming a variety of Detroit neighborhoods, has attracted the attention of many companies. “It varies company by company but we have 166 companies that each donate to us $1,000 to $100,000 a year,” he said.
Many of these companies send employees to volunteer. “The vast majority come on board with us because their employees volunteered or sent a friend. It’s fantastic,” he said. “A number of the companies provide skills-based volunteerism. (Detroit law firm) Bodman PLC, for example, takes care of all of our legal needs.
“Investing in Detroit neighborhoods is a major trend now,” Lambert said. “The city and suburbs believe in the Detroit renaissance.”
Dawn Coraci, executive assistant at Detroit-based Huron Capital, said the company has a committee, which includes her, that reviews donation requests. It also has a matching program. If someone is running a marathon or participating in an event for a cause, and the event hits $1,000 or more in donations, Huron Capital matches it with a $1,000 donation.
Huron Capital sponsors a fall fundraising gala at Detroit-based social services agency Crossroads of Michigan. In the summer, local companies prepare free lunch for kids in several neighborhoods. “We go on site and make tacos for 80 kids a couple of days in the summer,” Coraci said.
A few employees are on the board of nonprofit Racket Up Detroit, which teaches city youth how to play squash. Huron Capital also supports the Detroit PAL’s girls’ empowerment program and is hosting a Halloween event there. It also cleaned up alleys through Life Remodeled.
“The bottom line is we believe in giving back to the community. It is one of our core values to be grateful for what we have,” she added.
Choosing a focus
“There are so many wonderful charities,” said Christine McDermott, chief human resources officer at Dearborn-based Ghafari Associates, an engineering and architecture firm. “We looked at hunger. There is always a need for people who don’t have enough food. So that is the foundation of our charitable giving.”
McDermott said Ghafari employees are quick to help others with food banks, food drives, fundraisers and bake sales. “It makes sense to give back where you live.” The company’s Dearborn headquarters gives to Forgotten Harvest and Gleaners Food Bank. “At Gleaners, we had a milk drive for children. Those who donate milk get these adorable little cows that they can put on their desks. We plan to do it again.”
Volunteerism is top of mind for the younger generation.