Serving up connections

Katie Carr and Jenn Mancini work in different offices for Easthampton Savings Bank, so they only knew each other as names in their email inboxes. What they had in common was that they were both eager to volunteer in the community.

Knowing Highland Valley Elder Services hoped to enlist new volunteers in 2016, our United Way stepped in to help make an introduction, connecting leaders at ESB and Highland Valley. The result: Katie and Jenn spent a morning with a team of bank employees and got to know one another as they helped Highland Valley produce nearly 500 homemade lunches for hungry elders in a dozen communities.

For many years, we have helped volunteers in the workplace connect with partner agencies, but informally, on request. Now, we connect organizations and volunteers once a month through our new program called United Way Volunteers. Our efforts help employees at organizations such as ESB engage with United Way partners like Highland Valley all year long and seamlessly connect to more efficiently serve people in need.

“We’ve always been a big supporter of giving time in the community,” says Michael Roy, a vice president at the bank and chair of ESB’s volunteer committee, noting the bank is always looking for new organizations to serve. “We’ve also always been a strong supporter of the United Way, and this was a great opportunity for us to give back, but it’s also fun to do volunteerism as a group of co-workers.”

On this July morning, Katie and Jenn sliced zucchinis into thick rounds while colleagues chopped 13 pounds of onions and packaged broccoli quiche, potatoes and vegetables in segmented trays for home delivery. The work gave them all a sense of purpose in the community. It helped them bond as a collegial team, and it gave Highland Valley 18 extra helping hands; the nonprofit was able to provide 366 meals delivered by volunteers (see related story on the next page) and prepare another 122 meals that were served at the agency’s Northampton site and 11 other locations.

Jenn works in an office further east, so having a chance to bond with her fellow employees as she sliced and diced vegetables with Katie and bank staffer Terry Viens was particularly appealing. As a first-time volunteer, the experience made Jenn want to go back to her own community and give of her time. “It was great. Everybody was welcoming,” she says. “It was good to be involved in the community and to know that what you were doing was actually helping someone.”