INVESTING TIME: Fidelity Investments volunteers repaint the main hallway at Cunningham Elementary School in Pawtucket on Aug. 16, Fidelity’s Transformation Day. The company has made a decision to invest its corporate goodwill in a focused way, by improving middle school public education.
Rogean Makowski, a senior vice president in wealth management, interacts with a lot of people at the Westerly-based The Washington Trust Co., but connecting with colleagues through community service has opened even more doors.
Makowski and Julia Ann Sloam, her counterpart in commercial real estate lending, both participated in the Audubon Society of Rhode Island’s annual Beach Cleanup last September, which Makowski helps coordinate. That contact developed into a closer working relationship back at the office, she said. Calls and referrals to Sloam followed.
“You get to really understand a person’s work ethic when you’re volunteering,” Makowski said. “When you’re on the beach, and it’s a beautiful day, people can walk around and enjoy the scenery, or roll up their sleeves and get things done. To me, that’s someone I really want to work with, and to work with my clients.”
Fostering volunteerism through community service is a long-standing tradition at private companies and nonprofits, but in the past few years, many of these firms are choosing community service over traditional corporate outings like company picnics and scavenger hunts, or in addition to them, as a way to enhance team building.
“We still have our annual Employee Fest, where we recognize years of service to the community and any other achievements,” said Elizabeth Eckel, Washington Trust’s senior vice president of marketing. “But not everybody goes to that. People have families, some people take courses at night and it is very difficult to get people into one place at one time. So, for us to get people hand-in--hand with community service really is great for team building.”
On the front lines, the nonprofit Serve Rhode Island connects companies with groups and school districts in need of help. Executive Director Bernie Beaudreau says the number of community-service projects his organization has facilitated totaled 91 in 2012, compared with 20 in 2010. This year, 51 projects had been completed through August, he said.