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Local Companies Encourage Volunteerism with PTO Incentives

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The Kalamazoo area is full of people and companies that love to give back and there is certainly no shortage of worthwhile organizations to volunteer with either. In order to give employees more freedom-financially and in terms of time away from work-a growing number of local companies are implementing programs to encourage and enable their employees to take time off to volunteer without dipping into their PTO allotments.

A few local companies with company-paid volunteer programs include Bell's Brewery, TowerPinkster, Consumers Credit Union, and Kushner & Company.

Kalamazoo-based brewery, Bell's Brewery allows employees to choose a volunteer opportunity of their choosing and then submit a simple request for the time off. The program is known as "Bell's Gives Back."

"The time spent on an outside project that an employee is passionate about is paid by the company and not out of their PTO," said Carrie Overton, Director Human Resources at Bell's Brewery, Inc. "Personally, I like working the phones for the St. Jude Telethon.

"We also have a company-wide initiative that we support yearly and that is Adopt-a-Highway, where we all go out and pick-up trash," she added. "Bell's is so grateful for the great local Kalamazoo support and their efforts to help us grow that we just feel the need to give back."

Kalamazoo area Consumers Credit Union (Consumers) locations have participated in a corporate-sponsored Meals on Wheels program since 2007, according to Consumers Digital & Social Media Coordinator Emily Nickerson.

"Every Tuesday one employee volunteers to help deliver meals from 10 am to 12:30 pm in partnership with Meals on Wheels. The program serves those who are 60 years of age or older in need or those with disabilities that are housebound. Their volunteer time is company paid," said Shawn Detamore, Assistant Manager of Consumers Mattawan Office and Chair of Meals on Wheels.

"This program is well received and currently we have volunteers lined up through December."

Portage-based human resource strategy and administration firm Kushner & Company offers its employees matching PTO time for volunteer efforts. The firm will match up to two hours of PTO used for volunteering with company-paid time off.

"This program applies to community boards that individuals participate on, or outside programs that they may be associated with or passionate about," said Joel Kushner, the company's Chief Human Resources Officer.

Employees may also donate one-hour's pay per month to wear jeans on Fridays, Kushner said. The funds are then donated to a community organization or event.

"Our company feels it's important to give back to the community where we work and live," Kushner said.

Local architecture and engineering firm TowerPinkster encourages a spirit of volunteerism within its employees through two different programs.

Human Resource Manager Jennifer Bauer said a program called "Charitable Service Day" allows employees to spend a day volunteering with the organization of their choice.

"Simply put, our employees request to assist an organization that is a registered nonprofit in advance of the event," Bauer said. "The service day can include supporting a child's school field trip as a chaperone, to a foundation with a particular cause like the Make a Wish Foundation."

"TowerPinkster genuinely cares about the well-being of their employees as well as the neighborhoods they serve. The Charitable Service Day provides employees with an opportunity to give back; it's just one of the many ways TowerPinkster helps the community," said Electrical Designer Ryan Schwartz.

"This program in particular has grown exponentially to the point that this year we will have 15 people from the Kalamazoo office working with the local Habitat group and another 15 working on a home in the Grand Rapids area," Bauer said.

The second program TowerPinkster promotes is "Corporate Stewardship," which supports community outreach programs during working hours that the firm would like employees to participate in.

One such example is the company's ongoing work with Kalamazoo Public Schools. Fifteen of their team members mentor students every other week for an hour.

In addition to giving back to their communities, many companies have found paying employees for time spent volunteering reduces employee stress and turnover, which ultimately increases a company's productivity and bottom line.

How about your company? Do they offer volunteerism incentives? Share your comments below and let us know what organizations are your favorite to donate your time to.

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