Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Building Good Karma

by Lindsey Burks, Marketing Intern

I sat in the Tacoma Public Utilities cafeteria chest-deep in daydreams when a bubbly woman with wild hair flagged me down. I was there to meet Theresa Niemi and get her thoughts on volunteering but what I took away was a greater appreciation for one of Tacoma’s largest companies- Tacoma Public Utilities.

Theresa is an Oregon native with a charitable heart. She focuses on helping senior citizens, children, animals and the hungry. Most would consider helping one of those groups to be enough but Theresa is quick to refer to herself as “a speck” in terms of how impactful her volunteering is.  She notes that there are other people whose pockets run much deeper than hers so she gives her time. When asked what inspires her to keep volunteering, Theresa credits it all to karma.

“I believe in karma and that saying; do unto others as you wish others would do unto you… You’re doing something good and there’s no monetary compensation, so I know that I’m devoting my whole day’s pay to help those in need. It’s just a rewarding thing, and you hope that you’re helping one person at least. That’s all that I ask- that my volunteer hours helps one person. If I help more than that, that’s just a bonus.”
With significant volunteer experience under her belt and a philanthropic spirit, Theresa found her place at Tacoma Public Utilities (TPU). For nearly 20 years, TPU has been involved with United Way of Pierce County’s annual Day of Caring event and Theresa will take the lead as the coordinator for the fourth time this September. The TPU team is a group of generous, civic-minded people and committed friends of United Way of Pierce County.

The volunteers from TPU use vacation days to participate in United Way of Pierce County’s Day of Caring. This fact stunned me because it really demonstrates the team’s commitment to give back to their community. Theresa explained that the employees use their own vacation time because it wouldn’t be fair to the rate payers if the company gave them the day off because that is money out of their pockets. For a third year in a row, Theresa and her team will head out to Mother Earth Farm in the Puyallup Valley this coming September 20th. They all look forward to helping harvest fresh, organic fruits and vegetables for local food banks, get a couple nibbles in and say hello to their favorite farm cat.
Beaming with pride, Theresa spoke to me about her coworkers who are always giving back. She said that the consensus at TPU is “….to donate… even though the economy impacts some of the pockets here.” This collective generosity among the employees at TPU makes it easy to understand why the company has won numerous awards from United Way of Pierce County, most recently the 2012 Community Partner of the Year award.

Do you want to be a part of Day of Caring 2013 and build some good karma? Check out the available projects and submit an application at http://www.uwpc.org/DaysOfCaring.htm.  Send your questions or concerns to lindseyb@uwpc.org.


Friday, July 19, 2013

What I've learned from "my kids"

by Bethany Opstedal, Sr. Youth United Associate

What is it that creates a volunteer spirit? Why do teens care so much? I think many outsiders have a perception that students are “voluntold” and so they find an organization to volunteer at. With increasing competition for scholarships and college entrance it’s a resume booster for sure - but that is not why teens volunteer.  The students I work with through Youth United continue to amaze me year, after year, after year.  These students have a giving natures, caring attitudes and willingness to do whatever is needed for the greater good.  Seeing how involved many of these young adults are sort of puts the rest of us to shame.
“My kids”, as I affectionately refer to them, come out of the woodwork from all over Pierce County asking for service projects.  Some are interested in early childhood development; some are interested in health care…for others it is animals or the environment or assisting seniors.  I cannot even begin to name all the areas of focus and passion these remarkable teens have.  I don’t always have enough volunteer work for the number of request I receive.  I am lucky enough to join them at various volunteer projects and witness first hand their smiles and delight as they give back.  It is truly
heartwarming and inspiring.
I strive to be a better person for these kids - “my kids”. We should all strive to be better for them, to support them and to learn from them. They are not the leaders of tomorrow- they are the leaders of today.

I challenge you- what can you do to support a teen volunteer? What can you do to give back yourself? How can you make a difference in this community?