SC volunteers pack a lot into helping their communities

Giving a little can help a lot, but giving a lot can help even more.

That appears to be the sentiment embraced by associates at Santander Consumer USA (SC).

Hour by hour the time mounted last year until it easily surpassed a 20,000-hour goal for the company’s Volunteer Paid Time Off (VPTO) program, reaching nearly 25,000 hours of service to community groups. And that figure is more than double SC’s total for 2018.

Just as impressive is how the SC effort stacks up to other companies.

SC volunteers package food for starving children
Volunteers package food for starving children at a VPTO activity in Mesa, AZ.

With overall 60.5 percent participation, SC surpasses the “strong” 37 percent average reported in the Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship’s Community Involvement Study 2019. Operations in Denver, CO (79.5 percent), North Richland Hills, TX (71 percent), and Mesa, AZ (68 percent), led the way for SC, but the Dallas headquarters (53.5 percent) also beat out the corporate average.

Just 10 years ago, a majority of companies reported that 30 percent or fewer employees participated in volunteer programs, according to the 2019 study, which surveyed 252 companies.

“I am so grateful SC provides us all with the ability to give back to our community, and make a difference around the world,” said Veronica S., a Mesa associate who volunteered at Feed My Starving Children, which provides packaged meals to hungry children worldwide.

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Veronica, who was born outside the United States, remembered how she benefitted as a child.

“I along with many other children in my school received meals from organizations similar to FMSC, and it was the only food many of them would consume throughout the day,” she said. “Just knowing that you are helping the process to feed wonderful children around the world is indescribable.”

“Without companies like SC encouraging their employees to give back and organizations like this being such a huge beacon of hope, our world would be a little less bright,” added volunteer Monique E.

There’s a strong business case for community involvement, reported the Boston College study. Company-supported volunteerism helps improve employee engagement, boosts morale, strengthens employee networks and helps establish a positive reputation in the community, according to the study.

Indeed, The Dallas Morning News recently reported that SC’s rating on Glassdoor, one of the world’s largest job and recruiting websites, has risen noticeably, including the area of corporate culture.

Clearing the bar

“We are absolutely ecstatic with the results for 2019,” said Suzanne Massey, head of the Santander Consumer USA Foundation, who, in collaboration with community ambassador teams at each business location, led the effort to crack the 20,000-hour bar.

“Reaching 24,742 hours is a testament to the commitment of our associates, not only to serve the company and its customers, but to serve the community, as well.”

“Volunteer time off serves several important purposes,” she said. “First and foremost, it provides support to charitable organizations in the communities where associates live and work. Second, it encourages associates to work together as teams outside the office, which promotes engagement and morale inside the office. And third, it provides a strong foundation of community relationships for SC.”

‘Packed with love’

The community organizations affected generally cite the value that volunteers bring to their efforts.

“Volunteers are important to everything we do,” said Clint Palmer, FMSC development manager. “Volunteers hand pack every meal we serve and to me that means every meal is packed with love. Where else can over 1.3 million people serve locally and have such a global impact.”

“Our volunteers are the last hands to touch those meals before being served to the children who need them most,” Palmer explained. “When the box is sealed up here, the next time it opens will be when a meal is getting prepared for someone in another country … The Santander group packed 64,424 meals, which can feed 171 kids for an entire year in Thailand and the Philippines.”

Helping provide services

“Genesis relies heavily on volunteers helping us provide services for victims of domestic abuse,” said Lottie Price, volunteer manager at the shelter and support center for women and children. “Your volunteers are self-starters, diligent, fun, and possess a caring spirit. We only said once what we had in mind and they went right to work figuring it out and doing it perfectly.”

“Genesis works because of corporations such as Santander caring about communities where they work and live,” said Price, referring to three groups that worked at the shelter. “Last year, with Santander’s help, we served over 3,700 women and children.”

That impact on their communities and beyond isn’t lost on the volunteers themselves.

Making an impact

“Knowing that I was helping feed so many children and their families in need made me feel like I was making a HUGE impact,” said Monique E., who was one of two-dozen members of Conexion, a group of Latino and Hispanic associates, who volunteered at FMSC. “I loved seeing how everyone came together and it didn’t matter if we were from different backgrounds or beliefs. I love that Santander participates with organizations such as this because it is designed to serve others selflessly.”

“I can only imagine how difficult it would be to make the decision to leave a bad situation and the toll that decision takes on a person’s self-esteem,” said Mona T., one of the Genesis volunteers in Dallas. “I love that Genesis wants to build these women up, recognize their bravery and bolster their self-worth.”

“I can’t think of a more noble cause than to help these women and children get out of abusive situations and gain their independence,” said Jayson B., another SC volunteer at Genesis.

Finishing 2019 strong

Other VPTO activities late in the year that helped achieve Santander Consumer’s hourly goal included more than 200 volunteer hours by members of Conexion tutoring at-risk children and doing a winter coat drive for the International Newcomer Academy (INA) in Fort Worth, TX; a group of 50 volunteers who worked with POETIC of Dallas, a group that supports at-risk and exploited girls; a Mesa group of 15 that helped set up and organize a toy store for a community event, Gingerbread Rock, in support of a child crisis center in that Arizona community, and many more.

“Today I was humbled by children,” wrote Jessica G., a member of Conexion who volunteered at INA. “The respect we show and the time we invest today adds up and truly makes a difference.”

The value of giving

Many of the volunteers also cited the value of giving to a good cause with co-workers outside the workplace – and away from electronics – but for some, such as Monica E., the effect is even greater. “This experience has made such a huge impact on me that I have spoken with my family and we are going to volunteer a few times each month to continue helping the organization.”

“I was reminded to be thankful for the many opportunities I have been afforded,” wrote Jessica G.

“This experience made me just that much more grateful for the things I have now and how blessed I am to have this job that gives me the opportunity to volunteer,” said Nallely F. in Mesa.

Few SC volunteers would disagree.

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