As we celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Blue Crew, Independence’s corporate volunteer program, and look back at the impact we’ve made supporting local nonprofits in the region, we applaud our associates who have made it all possible. For two decades, Blue Crew volunteers have been generously giving back — donating their time and talent to help those in need and making our community a better place to live and work. Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Blue Crew remained committed to lending a helping hand. Driven by our culture of giving back, the Blue Crew went above and beyond to meet the needs of the community, including remote and virtual volunteering.
In recognition of this milestone anniversary, the Blue Crew introduced the Blue Crew Impact Award to honor associates who demonstrate an exceptional commitment to community service and volunteerism. Congratulations to the winners of the inaugural Blue Crew Impact Award!
- Mary McLean-Yabor, Senior Proposal Development Specialist
- Helen Shoffner, Executive Assistant
- Gina Vignola, Manager, Health Service Data Management
It’s Q&A Time!
Thank you to the winners for your service and commitment to making a difference in the community. We talked with them to learn more about their passion for volunteering and what this award means to them.
IBX: What inspired you to get involved with volunteering?
McLean-Yabor: My first volunteering experience was when I was in my late teens. Someone came to our church to talk about Aid for Friends. I was so moved to hear about the plight of the elderly, right in my own neighborhood, without food or friendship. I thought to myself, this is something I could do. I would visit with my senior, Angela, and bring her dinners for the week. It was only one hour a week, but it made such a difference to her and to me too.
Shoffner: I have been volunteering for many years through past employers and with family. In 2007, when I first joined Independence, I had just lost my father and was having a difficult time dealing with it. I was approached by a coworker who at the time was volunteering with Philadelphia Reads through the Blue Crew and out of curiosity, I signed up. It helped me pass the time and focus on something else — it really helped me get through that difficult time. It helped me survive. It was my first volunteer project with the Blue Crew and I’ve been consistently volunteering on projects since that time.
Vignola: I started volunteering in high school with the Good Samaritan Club. We would go to nursing homes or food banks, and held clothing drives. Once you participate in a few great events, it really is hard to not step up in the future. When you see how much you can help by just donating a day of your time, how could you not?
IBX: What do you love most about volunteering?
McLean-Yabor: I like volunteering with the Blue Crew because it gives me an opportunity to meet other associates. I’m inspired by my fellow associates who volunteer; it makes you feel like you are part of something big.
Shoffner: What I love most about volunteering is meeting and helping people! Whether it’s packing backpacks for kids so they are prepared when they go back to school or collecting toiletries, clothing, and food for organizations that feed women, vets, children, it all makes such a big impact in our society.
Vignola: I love that feeling of community and have hope for what our city can be. Every city and town across America could be just a little bit better if more people donated one day a year to helping out. I volunteer with the Blue Crew because it’s a way to help share my love of volunteering with those who I interact with every day and also because with the size of the Blue Crew, our group can make significant change to our communities.
IBX: Do you have any favorite volunteer projects?
McLean-Yabor: My first event with the Blue Crew, Run the Bridge, is a favorite memory. I was with the company for a couple of weeks and wasn’t sure what to expect. I was so impressed to see many members from the leadership team at this event. It showed me how important volunteering is to the company. I always say that volunteering is not what we do, it’s who we are! I also always love doing the large community events such as Day of Caring and Community Impact Day. The sheer volume of associates giving their time is impressive. You feel like you could move mountains with so many people participating.
Shoffner: Some of my favorites are the events that impact and enrich children’s lives, such as the Philadelphia Reads program (now known as Achieve Now), Cradles to Crayons, the Support Center for Child Advocates, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, and Variety – The Children’s Charity. I love volunteering on these projects because I enjoy seeing children happy and enjoying life. Volunteering with children humbles you. You focus on their needs and not your own and you feel good when they complete milestones or break through obstacles and challenges.
Vignola: Some of my favorites are when my entire department goes to the Share Food Program to pack boxes. It’s a great team-building event and nice to see everyone using their skills in new ways to try and streamline the packing process. You would be surprised how packing a box can become a competition! I also enjoyed volunteering at the Habitat ReStore. They gave me a sledgehammer to break down furniture so it would fit in the dumpsters. It was a fun way to help, but also work out any stress.
IBX: What does this award mean to you?
McLean-Yabor: I know there are so many associates out in their community really making a difference and I’m honored to be among them. Like many volunteers, I’m very happy to stay in the background but I know being at the forefront might encourage others to get involved. That’s what this award means to me — that getting involved and playing an active role in your community is important and shouldn’t be left to others. If not me, then who?
Shoffner: I am very proud and humbled to be selected. It’s particularly meaningful because I’ve volunteered with many dedicated men and women throughout Independence who are also deserving of this recognition.
Vignola: To me this award acknowledges the other side of volunteering. We always hear back from the host of an event on how appreciative they are that we came to help out, but for me this acknowledges the time and effort that goes into everything leading up to getting us to that event — and to make a big impact you need both sides.