United’s Volunteer Program Urges Employees
To Give Back To Community
The clouds had stopped raining before lunch on the cool October day, and both men made sure the orders in the coolers were correct.
Cleburne employees Kade Kincannon, key accounts/member services analyst, and Thurman Mauppin, AMI systems analyst, had donated part of two days to help the Meals on Wheels program run out of Somervell County Committee on Aging Inc. in Glen Rose. This was the second day on the job helping deliver meals to about 75 people.
Kincannon and Mauppin were participating in a new program started in 2018 at United that encourages employee volunteerism and community service, said Chief Administrative Officer Landy Bennett. Inspired by the seventh guiding cooperative principal of “concern for community,” each employee can receive up to eight working hours each year from the co-op to volunteer for an organization of their choice that is within the co-op’s service territory.
“As a co-op, we wanted to institute this community volunteer service program because we believe so strongly in the importance of giving back to the communities we serve,” Bennett said. “We launched this program because our employees get much more out of helping others than the people who receive the help. There are many worthwhile opportunities, and every employee can choose how to get involved based on their individual interest in various community service programs. Hopefully, each employee will eventually take on more projects during their own time after they see the positive effects of their volunteerism.”
Get ready to move fast, they warned. The counting and packing done, once the two delivery cars are filled with the day’s provisions for 75 home deliveries, the drivers must go quickly throughout Somervell County to make all the stops required for the day. As two drivers pulled around back, both men began moving coolers with meals into the back seats.
Kincannon said he chose to volunteer at this Meals on Wheels because the organization is one that receives funding from United’s Operation Round Up program—another community outreach channel that takes the rounded-up change from members’ energy bills and donates it to worthy causes throughout the service territory.
“This is a group that provides an essential service to many men and women within our service territory,” Kincannon said. “I figured the Meals on Wheels folks would have more assistance than they did. I came to find out it was a three-man delivery operation working in tandem with the cooks . And I was impressed with the amount of meals they were running on a daily basis with so few people.”
It’s a tough job for cooks and drivers Monday through Friday to feed those in need, said Pam Baker, director of Somervell County Committee on Aging that oversees the Meals on Wheels program. On top of that, organizers prepare an additional 50 meals a day for those who stop in at the senior center for lunch. And then, drivers are packed with 84 frozen meals to tide home-delivery recipients over on weekends and 45 sack lunches on holidays.
Volunteers are hard to find, and the three drivers are paid, she said. Somehow, organizers manage to make all the stops, and have done so since 1976.
“I’d say our program is greatly needed, because we’re way out in the country,” Baker said. “It’s hard to get help out to people in the country. ”
Though extra volunteers are rare, Baker said she was impressed with the assistance given by Kincannon and Mauppin. Just their presence alone not only brightened the lives of the workers at Meals on Wheels, but also the organizations’ recipients.
“It tells you what kind of a person they are that they would come out here and help,” she said of the United employees. “They were so courteous to the elderly, and they were a big help to the drivers. Assistance like that can help them along much faster. They might not realize it, but they’re such good company to the people in the homes they’re going to. That trip out to an elderly person’s home—that may be the only person they see all day long. ”
Mauppin said he thought there was value not only knowing that he and Kincannon were helping deliver meals, but also they were saying good morning and interacting for a short time with meal recipients.
“We wanted to try and make their day feel special,” he said. “It was a fulfilling experience and I look forward to participating in future events. This experience enabled me to help people.”
Kincannon said he enjoyed his experience and realized the joy he brought by his presence.
“It was such a reward to see the joy a brief visit and warm meal brought to those we delivered to,” Kincannon said.
Thankful at Thanksgiving
On Nov. 19, the air outside Pathway Church in Burleson hung thick with smokers perfecting about 100 turkeys that volunteers were cooking for the Fort Worth Presbyterian Night Shelter Thanksgiving Meal—an event that serves about 350 homeless men, women and children at True Worth, Safe Haven and the Morris Building.
United Executive Assistant and church member Lindsey Mobley had encouraged three other United employees to assist with the day’s events. It’s one of five days that lead up to Thanksgiving day, and Pathway Church performs the prep work and cooking in that time.
Assisting were church members Blake Beavers, vice president of energy supply, and John Huffman, information systems and technology administrator. Kennedy Curlee, accountant I, also helped. All four began the day by setting up tables for the massive meal preparation prior to cooking.
“I attend Pathway Church, and for a few Sundays had been hearing about this volunteer opportunity,” Mobley said. “I knew I wanted to do something to give back to the community and felt like this was something I was being called to assist with. There are numerous employees at United who attend Pathway Church and I thought it would be a fun experience to get a small group to volunteer together.”
Not only was the volunteer opportunity a chance to give back during the holidays, she said, but also it gave the participating employees a chance to bond as they spent hours setting up tables and unloading food. They also spent some time talking with several representatives from the church, learning about some of the venues that host the Thanksgiving meals and future volunteer opportunities they may have.
It takes about 100 volunteers to run the Night Shelter Thanksgiving Meal, said Kathy Colomo, outreach coordinator at Pathway Church who organizes the event with Presbyterian Night Shelter and three others. For five days, volunteers prepare about 750 meals by smoking turkeys and making dozens of pans of dressing and green beans, 800 rolls and 1,400 deviled eggs. This serves about 350 homeless for the lunch, but is also served for Thanksgiving dinner and lunch the next day at four shelters and facilities, she said. No food is wasted.
“The dinner is about building relationships not only with volunteers, but also with people at the shelter to let them know they’re not forgotten and that they’re loved,” Colomo said. “It wouldn’t happen without the volunteers that provide us the turkeys, resources, funding and help prepare the meals and serve them. United staff employees were great as they were there for all the setup, usually a hard time to get volunteers because it’s in the morning when people are at work during the week. It’s wonderful to have them out there to get all set up and make sure everything’s ready.”
This is the first time Curlee said she’d done any volunteer work on the scale of the Thanksgiving event. After being asked by Mobley, she said she was happy to help a good cause and a co-worker.
“I was happy to know that all of our combined efforts were going to help feed so many people,” she said.