United Way’s annual Day of Caring is always a satisfying day of making a difference in the community, but for Harborstone Credit Union’s Diana Harper, last year’s project had a personal twist. The company chose to support Kokua, a residential agency that serves adults with disabilities, by painting the home of one of its residents. “I have a sister-in-law who is special needs, so it really hit home to help that organization specifically,” says Harper
This year will mark the fourth time Harborstone has participated in Day of Caring in Thurston County. In previous years, the company has also assisted Homes First, which is an affordable rental housing organization, as well as a local crisis center. “With Homes First, we got rained out,” says Harper. “We went there to paint a house but ended up cleaning it instead.” Her team typically includes about 10 volunteers.
This year, “Day of Caring” has become “Days of Caring,” with projects spread out over the weekend of September 22 and 23. Harborstone has not yet identified which organization it’ll collaborate with in Thurston County, but Harper is looking forward to it. “It’s great to get out there and support the community,” she says. “A lot of the local nonprofits don’t have the funds to do these projects on their own.” Last year during Day of Caring, 800 volunteers from 50 different groups and businesses completed 40 projects for 27 local organizations in Thurston County.
Harborstone gives each of its employees eight paid hours of community service time every year. “I think it says a lot about the company,” says Harborstone Marketing Coordinator Alicia White. “They really empower us to go out and get things done. We were given the ability to create an internal team with a small budget focused on community outreach. When they saw how much we did, they decided to give us the means to be out there even more.”
By the end of 2015, Harborstone employees (among those who were tracking their time) had spent nearly 1,500 hours volunteering. “Considering we’re a company that has fewer than 250 employees, that’s a pretty big deal,” says White.
She has coordinated Day of Caring efforts in King County for the past three years, including clearing up the playground at the Fauntleroy Schoolhouse in Seattle and cleaning the Ballard Boys & Girls Club. This year, her team of volunteers will help the Easterseals organization in Des Moines put on a carnival day for adults with disabilities. “We’ll have a couple of people at each station,” says White. “We’ll help them play games and participate in the fun activities. It’s a little bit different from what we usually do, since we don’t generally meet the people we’re serving.”
For White, the experience is both rewarding and an effective reminder of the many unmet needs in the community. “I get to enjoy all of the fun parts of the city, the great food and shopping, and it’s easy to get away from thinking about all of the people who are out there struggling,” she says. “During all the projects I’ve participated in, I’m thinking about the people who are going to benefit. When cleaning up the playground, I was thinking about the kids who are going to use it when they take a break from learning. Later, we got a cute handmade card that said, ‘Thanks for cleaning up our playground.’”
Like Harper, White notes that many service organizations may not have the capacity to tackle these projects themselves. “With the Boys & Girls Clubs, they have to take care of the kids all day, and they really needed help maintaining their facility,” she says. “The fact that we were able to relieve them of that stress was really rewarding.”
Volunteering together creates a bond among employees and increases motivation levels as well, says Harper. “Most participants feel pretty proud of themselves. They know they’re doing something good, and it gives them the drive to keep going.”
White agrees. “People want to be involved with a company that does good work in the communities,” she says. “When our staff see other individuals throughout our organization doing these projects, it makes them feel good and they want to get involved too.”
Aside from Day of Caring, Harborstone employees also build homes with Habitat for Humanity and put on annual 5K runs to support the Emergency Food Network. “It’s close to our headquarters,” says White. “We like to make a difference in the communities where we work as often as possible.”
Members feel the impact as well, she maintains. “We’re more like a partner than somebody you can just come in and cash a check with. We’ve always had many employees who are engaged with different types of organizations in their communities. It’s in line with the philosophy of credit unions in general. We’re about giving back and helping people in need.”
For more information about Harborstone Credit Union, visit Harborstone.com.