Community service is becoming the most popular new corporate team building exercise, says the executive director of Volunteer Toronto.
“Instead of when you stand in a circle and see if someone will catch you when you fall backwards,” said Deborah Gardner with a chuckle.
Many companies have a commitment in their mission statements to citizenship and volunteer work and others simply see it as a way to build team morale.
Shannon Wetmore, an employee at UPS Canada, has been involved with Parkdale Project Read, an adult literacy program, for about two years.
Recently, as part of the company’s corporate citizenship program, she got a group of employees together to go and spend a Saturday morning at the west-end facility, cleaning and organizing the space.
“We were doing the things that the people who work at Project Read don’t have time to do,” she said.
Guy Ewing, a staff member at Project Read, said the event “transformed” the space and was a “very powerful” experience for both the volunteers and Project Read staff.
“You realize that people are allies in trying to do good things in our society,” he said.
Many of the UPS managers from across the country who were involved in the Saturday morning cleanup mentioned that, upon return to their home provinces, they would seek out their own opportunities to continue volunteer work, said Ewing.
“It sort of energized us,” he said.
As a corporation, UPS is committed to giving back to the community, said Doug Appleby, the company’s community relations manager.
“We support volunteer activities throughout the course of the year. We’ve been involved in a number of different activities,” he said.
The next major project for UPS is a women’s build this month with the Toronto chapter of Habitat for Humanity.
Many companies, including UPS and SAP, a software solutions company, hold an annual company-sponsoredmonth ofservice.
Last October, more than 60 per cent of SAP employees across Canada donated more than 2,950 volunteer hours. Their service included sorting food at food banks, preparing meals for needy families and painting and renovating rooms in community centres and schools.
Not only do communities and organizations benefit from corporate volunteer programs, the companies gain happier employees, Gardner said.
“Employees who volunteer, one study showed, are three times more likely to stay with the company,” she said.
For information on how you or your company can get involved, visit volunteertoronto.on.ca or volunteer.ca.