Human Resources staff, pictured in the green T-shirts, are, from left to right, Sandra Garcia, Farida Suhardji,Rachel Otwinowski, Sharon Hawkins, Shelly Liapes and Shawn Oliver.
Susan Hlade says it was a combination of her son’s eighth-grade service project plus the University’s “What would you fight for?” segments on NBC that sparked her desire to volunteer in the community with co-workers.
The talent acquisition consultant in the Office of Human Resources considered the impact she and other HR staff could have at places like the Food Bank of Northern Indiana, where her son and his friends from St. Anthony de Padua School had been serving.
“At the University, we educate the minds, bodies and spirits of students so they can go out into the world and make a difference. I thought, even though we don’t often get to work with students directly, we can still channel our University’s mission and give back to our community,” she says.
So Hlade approached HR’s leadership team with the idea to start a committee within the department that could focus on giving back to the community. Leadership gave her the green light.
In the two years since, the 12-member committee has planned and coordinated several service projects including volunteer work at the Food Bank, as well as a day of service in the community and a holiday gift drive for two University staff members in need.
“The first year, we encouraged the whole department to volunteer at the Food Bank,” Hlade explains. “People signed up to volunteer within specific time slots with individuals outside of their immediate work teams. We also suggested they go out to lunch together prior to their service work so they could get to know each other a little better.”
The second year, the committee added a day of service to the mix so the whole department could work on a project together. They invited HR staff to work with the Near Northwest Neighborhood in South Bend to pick up trash and do yardwork. Half of HR’s staff ventured out in the morning and half went in the afternoon so the office could remain open for the rest of the University.
“Bob McQuade, our vice president, did such a great job that the Near Northwest Neighborhood tried to recruit him away from us,” laughs Hlade.
Over the holidays, the department rallied together for the gift drive and provided a Christmas the recipients may not have had otherwise. “It was a surprise to them and their families, and they were very thankful for the gifts,” she says.
“The Office of Human Resources has fully supported these volunteering efforts as a way to invest in
the emotional, spiritual and environmental well-being of its members and the community,” adds senior benefits specialist Rachel Otwinowski, the new committee chair.
In 2019, the committee will coordinate service opportunities for HR staff with the Salvation Army’s Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center Fit Kids
Anyone with questions about how to form a community service committee may contact Hlade at firstname.lastname@example.org.