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PHOENIX (Dec. 10, 2019) - Without so much as an official name or mission statement LAVIDGE quietly launched an initiative early this year to create meaningful ways for the agency to give back to the communities it serves.
“What is our purpose for existence? What is our passion? What is our cause?” LAVIDGE Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Sandra Torre asked in the first of many emails to 10 employees who volunteered in January for LAVIDGE’s first-ever Charity Committee. The idea to organize such a committee grew out of a larger agency vision and is considered a key LAVIDGE initiative. Each full-time employee is encouraged to volunteer up to 16 hours per year. With 267 volunteer hours valued at about $40,000 in agency services logged in 2019, it’s clearly an idea that’s taken flight.
“During the past three decades, LAVIDGE has donated hundreds of thousands of in-kind dollars to make our community a better place,” said Bill Lavidge, agency president and CEO. “Now with our IMPACT program we are able to give an even better focus to our volunteer work and allow all LAVIDGIANs to personally participate in a variety of community service projects.”
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Alicia Wadas, who personally has pitched in at charity events, echoed Lavidge’s sentiment.
“IMPACT gives our employees an opportunity to additionally contribute on a personal level,” Wadas said. “By championing this initiative, Sandra has enhanced everyone's job satisfaction through heartwarming opportunities and teamwork.”
Community outreach takes off
By February, committee members not only had a mission statement, but had settled on branding themselves as IMPACT, commissioned a logo from a fellow LAVIDGIAN, ordered T-shirts and were well on their way to scheduling several events.
In keeping with IMPACT’s tagline, “Giving and Caring with Passion,” committee members agreed upon the following mission statement:
The LAVIDGE Employee Volunteer Program, IMPACT, is an intended, managed program designed to motivate and enable employees to effectively serve the community.
The focus of IMPACT is to join with employees to provide resources to improve the lives of children and youth and to promote the health and well-being of animals and pets through innovative volunteer opportunities, charitable contributions and partnerships.
The new employee-led group jumped right in, making a difference. In March, IMPACT invited LAVIDGE employees and family members or guests to work a two-hour shift packing food for Feed My Starving Children in Mesa.
In April, while there wasn’t an official group event, Torre distributed to every employee a list of a couple dozen opportunities to volunteer around the Valley. Some employees do so regularly on their own, including Laurie Schnebly, a copywriter who often reads for the Arizona State Talking Book Library.
In May, LAVIDGIANs collected donations which filled five large boxes of non-perishable food for St. Mary’s Food Bank. Filled with children’s favorites from Lucky Charms breakfast cereal to Welch’s grape jelly and Skippy peanut butter, the combined contents of the boxes included the makings for a variety of healthy meals complete with spaghetti noodles and sauce.
Also, because it was Foster Care Awareness Month, IMPACT had the pleasure of serving AZ Friends of Foster Children in May by decorating post card inserts for check recipients. The idea, the organization states, is to include something tangible for children whose caregivers receive scholarships for recreational activities such as summer camp or sports team fees.
IMPACT kicked off summer by sorting books for Friends of the Phoenix Public Library in June. While plans fell through in July to help an animal rescue for rabbits, IMPACT is committed to finding opportunities to work with animals—from equine to cats—in 2020.
In August, it was the agency’s pleasure to partner with Blessings in a Backpack to feed needy pupils of Nevitt Elementary School in Tempe. This included purchasing enough food to put together healthy weekend meals, and then sorting it into 500 bags.
This fall, Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month inspired an agency-wide toy drive in September benefiting the Arizona Cancer Foundation, resulting in three large boxes overflowing with action figures, books, games and other popular toys.
Officially, there wasn’t a hands-on opportunity for LAVIDGIANS to serve in October. However, LAVIDGE gave back by purchasing a table for eight at the Free Arts for Abused Children fundraising Every Child Matters Luncheon. The organization mentors children, many of whom are in foster care.
Sixteen LAVIDGE IMPACT volunteers kept an agency tradition alive in November by once again packing 2,520 emergency food boxes for St. Mary’s Food Bank, the oldest such organization nationwide. The non-profit distributes 250,000 meals daily and emergency food boxes for those in crisis as well as those with long-term needs.
This month, IMPACT is also honoring a LAVIDGE tradition by encouraging all employee-owners and other employees to adopt a Salvation Army Christmas Angel. IMPACT committee member Melanee Arnett, the agency's associate digital media director, organized both winter events as she has in years past.
While the number of hours donated, value of food and toys donated and the dollar amount required to purchase the weekend meals for school children can be quantified, the goodwill and camaraderie among employees and with the communities they serve cannot.
“Of course, we’ve experienced challenges,” Torre said, referring to random circumstances which prevented IMPACT from being able to work with animals thus far. “Even so, it’s been an amazing year. We look forward to doing even more in years to come and expanding IMPACT as we grow as an agency.”
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