November is often referred to as “Gratitude Month” during which we count our blessings and celebrate a feast of plenty at the Thanksgiving Day table. Employees at Citizens Union Bank began their expressions of gratitude on Columbus Day by volunteering at area nonprofits and bringing cheer to others.
“For a long time I searched within myself to find what I can do to make a difference,” said Kim Dodson, Senior Vice President of Treasury Services at CUB. “I didn’t feel I had skills specific to the non-profit industry, but I do have a servant’s heart. One of the things I so appreciate from a career perspective is that CUB encourages me to find my passion and pursue ways of giving to others.”
A decision to make a difference
This year for Columbus Day, dozens of CUB employees volunteered their time at Cedar Lake Lodge, Open Door of Hope, Serenity Center, a backpack program offering food to children, Dare to Care Food Bank, Colonial Hall and Feeding America. They also picked up litter at Shelby County Parks. Overall, 150 employees volunteered their time at 11 different organizations.
“Some of them are customers of ours and some of them are not,” Dodson said. “They don’t have to be customers. We look at it as a way of giving back to the community we live in and work in.”
Spreading cheer at Cedar Lake Lodge
At the start of the autumn season, 22 CUB volunteers made their way to Cedar Lake Lodge to share arts and crafts with residents there. They carried little pumpkins, stickers, Mason jars, tea light candles, tinsel and glass beads and spread them on long tables, inviting everyone to explore their creativity.
“Since this is our third year volunteering here, we’ve become friends with the folks at Cedar Lake,” Dodson said. “They recognize us when we come in, and they’re so excited because they know they’re going to have a special day. When we leave there, we have such full hearts and feel so blessed. We were able to make their time enjoyable and that makes us feel so good.”
Efforts to feed the hungry
A significant focus of CUB’s fall volunteer efforts includes supporting organizations that feed the hungry and provide meals with dignity. Feeding America is the leading domestic hunger relief program that provides 46.5 million Americans food and nourishment, including 12 million children and seven million seniors, according to its Hunger in America 2014 report. Feeding America works through 58,000 food pantries, meal service programs and charitable food organizations. Nearly 2 million volunteers contribute 8.4 million hours in a typical month — among them, CUB employees.
One in seven Americans experiences chronic food insecurity. Roughly 20 percent of Feeding America households have a member who has served in the U.S. military.
“Don’t take for granted that turkey dinner that you’re sitting down to because somewhere there’s a child or adult who has nothing to eat,” Dodson said. “And they’re probably someone you know.”
An investment that yields many benefits
“What if all our local companies, our homegrown companies, would allow their employees a half day to do good works? What kind of impact could we make locally?” Dodson asked. “Donating your money is one thing, but becoming intimately involved with an organization —you can’t put a price on that. Not everyone has extra funds to give, but everybody has time. Time is so valuable.”
As a community bank with locations in six different counties and a history that dates back 128 years, CUB knows that time spent helping others is an investment that’s worthwhile. The planning and effort involved can be considerable, but so is the sense of satisfaction and achievement employees get in return.