Giving back: Avvo volunteers year-round in Seattle

by Mary Callaghan

This holiday season marks the Avvo volunteer program’s first anniversary of giving! Our program began as a passion project for HR specialist Eileen Kim, who dreamed of bringing a corporate volunteering program to fruition. Eileen worked to build out a program for Avvo-ites to participate with well-established local non-profits. Monthly opportunities have so far given 49 employees across 14 departments a chance to roll up their sleeves and do some good.

Eileen’s vision has given Avvo employees monthly opportunities to engage with three local organizations. This is both valuable and inspiring to the Avvo team, says Chief People Officer Kelly McGill. “Eileen has a day job as our benefits administrator for the company and the fact that she took it upon herself to design a companywide program that helps others is incredible,” Kelly said.  “Her positive approach and inclusive attitude are contagious to those that work with her and she inspires many to make a positive impact.”

The Avvo program currently partners with three organizations:

  1. Pike Market Food Bank, a pillar of Seattle’s iconic Pike Place Market, serving more than 525 low income families, seniors, and individuals each week.
  2. Seattle Children’s Hospital, ranked among the nation’s greatest children’s hospitals, delivering and advancing pediatric care.
  3. Emerald City Pet Rescue, a growing non-profit pet rescue dedicated to rescuing, nurturing, and rehabilitating homeless and neglected animals.

“Our experience with Avvo employees volunteering has been nothing but positive,” said Emerald City Pet Rescue volunteer coordinator, Kelley Frillman. “We are expanding as a rescue, and these wonderful people pulled together and helped us with a big project of organizing and putting together dozens and dozens of crates. In fact, they knocked out the project in under two hours.”

With different partner organizations and a rotating group of employees, each opportunity varies in task and impact. From collecting and distributing food to making crafts at the hospital, we’ve only just begun. A basic tenet of the Avvo program is that it is driven by employee interest and participation, and Avvo-ites regularly show that they want to volunteer and help their community. Sign-ups typically max out within hours of the opportunity being offered.

Account manager Stephanie Sloan was a deeply-engaged volunteer in her hometown and has participated in multiple outings with the Avvo volunteer program. She welcomes afternoons at Seattle Children’s Hospital as a chance to step back from work, tap into her creativity, and set up crafts for families battling pediatric illness. “With Avvo, I’m able to volunteer a little and thankfully, during work hours,” Stephanie said. “I totally love children and so getting to volunteer at Seattle Children’s and be around them is the best.”

It’s clear that volunteering impacts Avvo-ites as much as the Seattle community. “I’m not in a job role where I get to interact with a wide variety of people” said software test engineer, Amy Parsons. “I enjoy the opportunity to meet and serve other people in Seattle while also hanging out with coworkers I don’t ever work with.” This sense of camaraderie is not lost on our partner organizations, who value our humor and teamwork while volunteering.

“We love our volunteers from Avvo,” said Brian Anderson, manager of Pike Place Food Bank. “By year’s end, Avvo will have joined us five times in 2016 and each time was a delight. Everyone is both hardworking and fun-loving – our favorite combination – and have a deep commitment to serving folks downtown. Avvo is one of our most cherished partners.”

Volunteering has had a ripple effect on the Avvo team. There are ongoing blood drives, clothing drives, and a canned food drive benefitting Northwest Harvest this November. Over the last year, supporting the Seattle community has helped to build our own. With more than 200 volunteering hours on the books, Avvo-ites are contributing to creating a better future for our community–together. Looking back at the inaugural year of the program, Eileen is humbled. “Between the support of our senior leadership team, my managers, and our employee participation in the volunteer program, the team at Avvo has helped make one of my bucket list dreams come true.”

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