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Volunteering Together for Our Community and Our Team

By April 17, 2018August 23rd, 2021Community Volunteerism

It wasn’t until recently that I discovered how much I love to volunteer. My wife, two kids, and I have enjoyed finding different ways to help organizations within our community. I’ve done a little bit of everything, from running activities for children at after-school events to volunteering at food banks. And I love to urge friends and family to participate in something — regardless of how big or small — that can help make a difference.

As director of the Project Management Office at Independence, I feel lucky to work for an organization that fosters a passion for volunteering. Not only does Independence Blue Cross encourage its employees to give back through volunteering, but it also provides the means to do so through the company’s volunteer organization, the Blue Crew.

Using the Strength of Our Numbers

To deliver projects effectively and efficiently, I believe strong relationships are critical — especially for projects where things may not always go as planned! Last year in the Project Management Office, we wanted to do a team-building exercise with one of our vendors.

At first, suggestions were raised for ideas like “Escape the Room” or a Phillies game. But when someone proposed using the strength of our numbers — about 70 from Independence Blue Cross and 20 from the vendor — to volunteer, everyone was all in!

With guidance from our Community Affairs department, we decided we could maximize the impact of such a big group of volunteers by working with the Share Food Program in North Philadelphia. Knowing that last year Share brought 27 million pounds of emergency food relief to low-income Philadelphia residents facing hunger, we knew there would be plenty of work for us to do.

When the day arrived, we poured in to the Share Distribution Center and got to work…all 90 of us! About 15 people worked on cardboard box assembly, ten or so cleaned up and painted furniture that was being given away, and the remaining 65 were on the assembly line, building nutrient-filled food boxes for delivery.

A team of Independence employees spent a day volunteering together and realized they not only helped their community but also strengthened their team.

A Lasting Effect — Let’s Do It Again

This tremendous experience still has a noticeable impact on my department. Like us, many of you may spend your days in an office building. It was so fulfilling to get out of our daily routine and get our hands dirty for the benefit of others. And there is something to be said about building camaraderie with a coworker you haven’t really spoken to before. When you are shoulder-to-shoulder and both your hands are in the middle of building a food box for someone in need, an invaluable bond is created from sharing this common goal.

I’ve also noticed more of an ease and willingness to communicate within the department and more patience when a project doesn’t go as planned. I am confident that our day together at Share helped us to be a better team, whether or not we recognized it was happening!

Many on my team have asked about volunteering with Share again and have even joined the Blue Crew for more frequent volunteer opportunities with the company. Knowing all this, I was excited to announce recently that we were organizing another day at Share, and I’ve noticed more smiles, high fives, and idea-sharing on other volunteer opportunities for the team. It fills my heart to know that I work with such good souls.

My Top 4 Reasons for Volunteering

No matter the type of volunteering, I’ve always loved it and encourage others to give it a try. I think volunteering is so worthwhile because it:

  1. Brings people together. You get to meet new people and make new friends. The people you volunteer with are likely to be interesting and inspiring, and they might just turn out to be future friends who also want to make the community a better place.
  2. Supports those in need. At the end of the day, to help others is why we volunteer. Your efforts are helping someone get through their day, week, or even their year. It provides an opportunity to give back what has been given to you.
  3. Makes a difference. Volunteering is a lot like voting — your vote alone may not make a big wave, but when you join forces with others, you can make a huge impact. The work you contribute can better lives.
  4. Helps you gain confidence. Many people who regularly volunteer say that it helps them feel more confident in all sorts of ways — everything from learning and practicing new skills to promoting self-growth by interacting with new people in a new environment.

These reasons are just a glimpse into why I suggest we donate our time in Philadelphia, or in your community where you live. There are so many ways to get involved that it can be overwhelming. My suggestion is to start with something small, and you will lead yourself down the right path.


Laith Elias

Laith is the Director of the Project Management Office at Independence Blue Cross. He went to Lehigh University, studied Industrial Engineering, and has possibly mastered the art of whittling together a professional bio.