Monday, November 16, 2009

Loaned Executives, A Coveted Post

by Mark Kawabata, State Farm Insurance Loaned Executive

I’d like to share about my experience as a Loaned Executive (LE). Being an Auto Claim representative for State Farm I have been given the opportunity to temporarily leave my position to work directly for the United Way of Pierce County for 16 weeks. My time at the United Way is half way over, it has been an adventure that I will always remember and I wish everyone could experience. It has been humbling to say the least.

The LE position is highly thought of and coveted within State Farm. Not only does one get great exposure and experience but also the fulfillment of helping others. I must point out that State Farm has been very gracious while I’m on loan. They have made sure that my work responsibilities are covered so that I can dedicate all my energies to the United Way without having to worry about managing work at State Farm too. Not all LEs have been as lucky.

Many ask what exactly does an LE do? Well, my main goal is to raise donations for the United Way of Pierce County. There are 116 funded programs that depend on funds from the United Way to keep providing services the community. These can be shelters for women of domestic violence, dental care for children whose parents can’t afford it, or food banks, just to name a few. I also educate people on what the United Way is and why it is so very important.

I have been given a book of various companies and organizations. I meet with a coordinator at each company, plan out their United Way campaign, set up guest speakers, make sure they have pledge form, give presentations, collect money raised, and do everything else possible to make each campaign a success. I spend a good deal of my day meeting with people, delivering materials, and helping with events to show support. The work can be challenging as there just does not seem to be enough time in each day to accomplish everything. But like with most jobs, I prioritize the best I know how.

Having visited many companies, one reoccurring concern I see consistently is that everyone is worried for their jobs. Factory worker’s hours are being cut, raises are not being given, and people are scared about the economy. (On a side note, in the midst of all their financial worries, that is where I come in to ask them to donate money.) People’s Holiday parties are being cut from a catered luncheon to cookies and coffee, for many, times are getting tough.

I have been very lucky at State Farm as I have never needed to worry about being laid off or if I would be able to support my family. Working at State Farm, it is easy to become immune to many concerns. In my time at the United Way, I have met people who need basic services as well as those who are afraid they will need those services in the near future. I stated before that I have been humbled by my experience. It can be easy to complain, but seeing what I have, I realize just how lucky I am.

My intent is not to preach, but I do feel obligated to share what I have learned. If you have a job, whether you like it or not, be thankful. And if you can help, be it with donating money, gently used items, or your time, please do.

In closing, I wanted to tell about one company I work with that knew it would be tough for employees to give cash donations. So we came up with the idea of doing “Birthday Rescue Packages.” If a family is going to a food bank, it probably means things are tight. This company decided to have each workers donate one Birthday item; cake mix, plates, balloons, party napkins, etc. Then they put together and wrapped up care packages to take to the food bank so if a family had a child who has a Birthday, they could just take the pre-made box of goodies and the child could still have a party. It is looking like there will be 100% participation from all the factory workers! Even when some do not have a lot, they still find ways to give.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Loaned Executives, A Closer Look

by Liz Stanton, 2009 Loaned Executive

Twelve Loaned Executives (LEs), 16 weeks on "the campaign trail" and 290 accounts. There is a ton of work to be done. At first, it sounded daunting but immediately after I started my job as a loaned executive my outlook changed.

As a loaned executive, or in my case "sponsored executive"—my position is sponsored by the Boeing Company—I am assigned approximately 30 company accounts in Pierce County. My role is to visit each one and ask every employee to consider giving their time and money. Now, I don't consider sales to be my strongest attribute and yet, somehow, I found myself in a sales position. However, when I saw the type of facilities the United Way supports and the people who are served, my perspective shifted.

While touring the Good Samaritan Hospital's Children’s Therapy Unit, I had a moment where I began to see beyond the forthcoming to-do lists, appointments and presentations. It was here I saw firsthand the dedication, optimism and compassion of the staff. They provide therapy options created specifically for kids, who are born with physical disabilities that limit their day-to-day life. If a child cannot ride a big-wheel because of a physical disability, a staff-person will alter the big-wheel so the child can ride it. After seeing the piles of customized equipment that has built for the kids, I had "the moment" I spoke of above. I cannot take my ability to do good work for granted.

We are in week 7 and my time at United Way is going by too fast. I am truly having fun with my fellow LEs. They are all fascinating people and I love getting to know them. More on that in another post... Until then, I look forward to more experiences and meeting more people and sharing more stories.

Along with my delightful LEs, I visited:

L'Arche Farms
Washington's Women in Employment & Education
Lindquist Dental Clinic
Tacoma Community College's Childcare Center

Additionally, we each participated in United Way's Day of Caring where local businesses collaborate in volunteer group projects at local non-profits. I went to the Boys & Girls Club, Gonyea Branch.