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Volunteering in Our Communities

Strengthening Our Communities One Volunteer at a Time

We care about our communities and work every day to strengthen them. One way is through our employee volunteers, who last year alone volunteered for more than 11,068 hours with 227 nonprofits.

In addition to sponsored activities that support our public service mission, our Bank gives employees 16 hours of paid leave each year to volunteer with community organizations of their choice. We gather this information through an online tool to help determine our collective impact and recognize those who give back.

So, how are our employees using their 16 hours and what drives them to serve? Three employees share their stories:

A Week of Service in Mexico

When Emily Good joined our Bank a year ago, she was struck by the community service leave benefit in addition to generous paid time off. “The benefits in general were attractive, and so was the purposeful approach to volunteerism,” she said. “It spoke to the culture at the Richmond Fed.”

By combining her community service leave with some PTO, Emily and her husband decided to spend a week on a service trip through Enlaces Comunitarios Internacionales, or Community Links, an organization based in Mexico. Its focus areas of sustainability, agroecology and education appealed to the couple, who had participated in service trips across the U.S. and globally while students at Virginia Tech.

During the trip last fall, Emily and her husband learned about sustainable farming while they lived at a community center, and worked with kids in the afterschool program. They spoke with Central American migrants to understand their motives for migrating and the challenges and dangers they faced along their route. They also helped the community prepare for Day of the Dead — a Mexican holiday that focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have died, and help support their spiritual journey.

For Emily, taking a week to give back is a natural expression of gratitude and the desire to build relationships. Her parents ensured she and her siblings had opportunities to volunteer growing up, but she began to truly appreciate its importance in college. In addition to her service trip, Emily helps our Bank as a Career Champion, works with our Bank’s Generations United employee resource network and helped start our Evolving Professionals Program.

“Everyone has a passion, a cause you care about,” Emily noted. “With the 16 hours, you’re basically getting paid to do something you care about. We’re a mission-driven organization and we should carry that mission over to our personal lives.”

Preparing a Home for the Homeless

Last year, as Thanksgiving approached, Jessica Olayvar joined a group of her colleagues to volunteer at Housing Families First as part of her department’s Days of Giving. The experience had a profound impact on how she views the world around her.

“It was humbling to see how much excess we have in our day-to-day lives,” said Jessica, who chaired Days of Giving last year. “What a life of privilege we lead. It’s given me another perspective of the marginalized people of our society who we usually don’t think about.”

Housing Families First — a Richmond, Virginia, nonprofit that benefits from our Bank’s United Way campaign — provides transitional housing for families. The families served are those having a difficult time finding a permanent home for reasons ranging from unemployment to catastrophic medical expenses. Housing Families First bridges the gap with resources like a room for each family and meals to start and end their day.

Jessica and her team cleaned and prepared rooms for new families, tidied up the kitchen, made beds and — since Days of Giving take place during Thanksgiving week — decorated a holiday tree.

As she and her teammates prepared the rooms, Jessica shared she found herself “reflecting [on] what they might feel when they come in and see the room for the first time.”

That kind of personal connection to the work performed by United Way agencies makes a big impact on employee volunteers. While monetary and material donations are critical to helping nonprofits continue providing their services, volunteers “get to see how important these donations really are,” Jessica noted.

Making a Difference in the Life of a Student

As a teen, Felicia Kline recalls mentoring her classmates through a program called Upward Bound, which encourages underprivileged students to prepare for college. “If not for Upward Bound, I wouldn’t have known about scholarships — and I got a full ride through Upward Bound,” she said. “It behooves me to pay it forward. It’s our responsibility to reach back and help those who need it because we all received help in some form.”

That gratitude is what motivates Felicia to volunteer as a mentor to an eighth-grade girl at McClintock Middle School in Charlotte, North Carolina. Felicia volunteers through Communities in Schools’ Success Coach Program in which mentors build relationships with students who empower them to succeed inside and outside the classroom.

Success Coach’s emphasis on measuring the impact of student-mentor relationships appeals to Felicia — and she has seen a drastic improvement in her student’s grades as well as her general outlook. “You’re not only meeting the need of helping the student pass a test or class, but you’re meeting the needs of students holistically,” Felicia explained.

Felicia has built a trusting relationship with her mentee not only by helping with school work but also by playing games and just spending time together talking. The girl now talks with Felicia about issues she faces with her friends and family — important factors, especially for a teenager.

Felicia’s strong impact recently landed her a nomination for the annual “Mentor of the Year” award by the Mayor’s Mentoring Alliance. The MMA is a special youth program run by the mayor of Charlotte that helps to educate organizations and mentors about best practices for mentoring, ignite impactful mentor-mentee relationships and connect the city’s mentoring community.

“I appreciate the Fed allowing me the opportunity to serve, whether it’s the 16 hours of volunteer time or being flexible with my own time so I can meet with my mentee,” Felicia said. “Every single one of us has some focus we’re passionate about outside the Fed. Every person can find something they can do to make a difference.”

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