You can generate positive impact with a little effort and a lot of planning – especially when thousands of colleagues across eight countries reimagine safe volunteer service that reduces inequity, supports local communities and protects our planet. In keeping with our spirit of hospitality and our mission to do great things for our people, our partners, our communities, and our planet we marked our 8th annual Aramark Building Community (ABC) Day on September 23.
“Giving back is key to pursuing our mission and upholding our values,” says Danielle Wark, HR Director, International. “Whether you're reaching one person or 100 people, you're impacting a life, and that’s all it takes to make a difference.”
Since its start in 2008, Aramark Building Community has engaged more than 70,000 volunteers and reached more than five million children and families in underserved communities. This year, more than 92 project leaders across the United States, United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and South Korea hosted projects, applied for grants and joined virtual service events. A team in Nashville planted trees to help restore the East Nashville community destroyed by a tornado in March 2020 and the organization distributed 10,000 disposable masks to the Boys and Girls Clubs in Dallas, Texas and Brookhaven, Georgia. In addition, we issued nearly 70 grants to nonprofits across the US and internationally to support increased access to healthy food, personal wellness, education, and COVID-19 related safety materials.
“Aramark employees are resilient, united by our purpose to have positive impact on people and the planet,” said Jami Leveen, Vice President of Community Partnerships at Aramark. “Even with the challenges presented by COVID-19, we were able to adjust to support dozens of nonprofit community partners, whether that meant providing grants, organizing smaller local activities, or hosting virtual events.”
Spelling It Out
“Building local communities means collaborating with nonprofit organizations while encouraging employee volunteerism to address the issues most important to the local community,” says Leveen. “We’re looking for solutions that help people thrive.”
For Paola Bustos Yunez, Director of IT Audit at Aramark, the opportunity to serve others in a respectful, non-transactional manner sets ABC Day apart. She appreciates that when looking for ways to serve, Aramark identifies organizations that are already highly invested in their communities and aligned with the interests of those they reach.
“At Aramark, we have a passion for great food—and this year, I worked with a community resource center that works to sustainably address hunger,” Bustos Yunez says. “Food provision is a core service they provide, but they are highly invested in ensuring individuals receive food that is nutritious, culturally appropriate, and dignified.”
Each partnership not only helps form connections between volunteers and those they serve but furthers a deeper understanding of the “why” behind circumstances like hunger, housing insecurity, and educational divides. For many, this makes participation in ABC a deeply personal experience, too – particularly when they’re able to help those they relate to through our employee resource groups (ERGs), our growing networks of colleagues giving voice to the diverse groups within our workforce, while creating a more inclusive workplace.
While ERG members are ensuring Aramark is a safe and welcoming place to work, they’re also making the world a better place to live. On ABC Day, ERGs are encouraged to identify a nonprofit that aligns with their unique missions, such as serving military families, amplifying Black voices, fostering LGBTQ+ education, and more.
When Giving Back is Personal
Kenny Brooks, Vice President, IT, served as an ABC Day project leader for Aramark Salute, our ERG for veterans and military families. This year, Brooks and his team at Salute assembled 350 back-to-school supply kits and led a thank you card writing campaign, which were distributed to families across the country.
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Brooks says that while donations like backpacks and cards were important to the success of the project, the true value of the campaign is nurturing relationships between ERG members and the families they serve.
“I’m grateful for my time in the military, but I miss having those connections with other servicepeople,” Brooks says. “In the military, you're brothers and sisters in arms with the soldiers around you. No matter where you come from, you have each other's backs. I felt like I filled a void when doing this project. Being able to connect with those families again opened my eyes.”
Now, Brooks and his Salute team are already planning their next community outreach project, basing their activities on the needs expressed by the people they met. Meanwhile, another ERG, Aramark Pride, is helping another community feel heard, no matter the roadblocks.
When the pandemic forced Amanda Hall, Global Deployment Specialist, and project leader at Aramark Pride, to rethink the group’s in-person plans, she turned to grant applications. With many nonprofits in need of monetary assistance more than ever due to COVID-19 related challenges, the Pride team found a way they could reach an underserved part of the LGBTQ+ community: by providing grants for women, transgender, and gender non-conforming people to access therapy through the Therapy Center of Philadelphia (TCP).
“I’ve been involved in LGBTQ+ advocacy before, but the grant process was new to me,” Hall says. “Being able to support this service means a lot. TCP uses an equitable approach to their therapy, from the cost of the sessions to the therapists themselves, and they treat our community with respect and grace: something we don’t always receive in our current society.”
Service to the Core
Hall, her team at Aramark Pride, and the rest of our business aim to mirror this respect in keeping with our culture of hospitality, ingrained in everything we do, which informs the way we care for each person who comes through our doors – whether that’s in person or from a distance. We encourage employees to volunteer to lead projects with a reputable 501c3 organization that aligns with our goal. ABC Day sparks a domino effect, inspiring colleagues to continue to support their projects in alternative, more long-term ways.
“We’re often starting with a one-time small project and find that we are able to provide a skill, service or solution that benefits the nonprofit,” Leveen says. “Often, volunteers are interested in continuing their service beyond ABC Day, so we work to establish more substantial ways to build year-round engagement and support.”
As we mark Aramark Building Community’s 13th anniversary, we remain committed to enabling a healthy and equitable society by empowering workforce success, inspiring healthy lives and building vibrant communities.