Many may think our industry is just about hardhats, two-by-fours, and a good pair of work boots, but those of us on the inside like to add a splash of color to that somewhat taupe description. We’re not all work and no play. In fact, we love what we do and a big part of that is opportunities to give back to the community.
Cradles to Crayons is a nonprofit organization that accepts donations of new and nearly-new children’s clothing and shoes, as well as unused school supplies. Volunteers and network partners in the organization’s base cities of Boston, Chicago and Philadelphia organize, package and distribute the goods to disadvantaged children from birth to age 12. Supplies include anything from new school outfits, to crayons and markers, to backpacks and warm coats. Cradles to Crayons works with 50,000 volunteers and serves 1.2 million children.
Like many of us in the building materials industry, employees from Pennsylvania and Indiana Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Companies (PLM), an insurer of wood products and building materials since 1895, hold a special place in their hearts for children in need. PLM President John Smith believes strongly in corporate social responsibility and in particular, the mission of Cradles to Crayons. PLM employees do not want to see any child, least of all in their backyard of Philadelphia, go without the essentials they need to attend school and better themselves. As a result, PLM encouraged all employees to take part in a special Cradles to Crayons volunteer effort during the month of July.
As the company does throughout the year with a number of different charities, PLM organized Cradles to Crayons group volunteer days for its employees. Employees were provided transportation to the volunteer site and offered paid, volunteer time off to spend at Cradles to Crayons.
Lindsey DiGangi, a business analyst for PLM, described her day with Cradles to Crayons as “a humbling experience.” She added, “As an organization that is tackling some of the largest problems plaguing our area, volunteering at Cradles to Crayons gave us the opportunity to see the struggles of those living around us and the ability to lend a helping hand.”
As it was mid-July and soon-to-be back-to-school time, PLM volunteers were tasked with organizing backpacks with school supplies and writing personal notes. The notes, included in the packages, were designed to inspire the children to work and play hard during the upcoming school year. PLM volunteers spent their days sorting incoming donations, cleaning and organizing toys to package for the children. They also listened to heart-felt stories from Cradles to Crayon spokespersons putting a personal touch on the impact the organization is making on children’s lives.
“I left our volunteering event feeling the weight of the problem and the importance of this charity on our local community,” said DiGangi. “We are living in a city that has the highest deep poverty rate with nearly 1 in 4 Philadelphians living in poverty, including 130,000 children.”
As clear as Cradle to Crayon’s commitment is to school-aged children, is the commitment PLM has to the communities in which it operates. The company organizes a number of volunteer and charity initiatives throughout the year, including offering employees paid volunteer days.
Harold Jamison, vice president, human resources, regulatory and corporate secretary for PLM, said initiatives are carried out in the Philadelphia area where the company is headquartered, as well is in other communities around the country where employees operate remotely. Other organizations with which PLM has teamed up include: Habitat for Humanity Restore, the Fireman’s Hall Museum, the Free Library of Philadelphia, Starfinder Foundation, Career Wardrobe, Philabundance, Gleaner’s Food Bank in Indianapolis, Wounded Warriors, Women’s Abuse Shelter, St. Baldrick’s Childhood Cancer Research Foundation, and the Annual United Way Campaign.
DiGangi lauded PLM’s commitment to charitable causes, mentioning a St. Baldrick’s Brave the Shave event last year, where Smith and his wife Julie shaved their heads for the cause.
In fact, in 2014, PLM received the United Way Culture of Caring Award for its continued service.
“Our commitment to charitable activities is evident at every level of this organization,” she said.