Rolls-Royce, Clear Channel workers get their hands dirty volunteering

Some Washington-area workers recently took a break from their jobs developing and marketing luxury automobiles and operating a nationwide radio network for much more humble pursuits — painting buildings and pulling weeds.

Rolls-Royce and Clear Channel employees were among 8,000 volunteers from more than a dozen companies who performed the manual labor as part of a recent District-wide Servathon organized by nonprofit Greater DC Cares. Besides sprucing up buildings and pulling weeds at a cemetery, they also taught computer training sessions for staff of nonprofit organizations.The nonprofit, known for its volunteer service days on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Sept. 11, raised through nearly $130,000 through sponsorships and donations. The money, among other things, will fund programs that train senior-level business people for nonprofit board service and that enlist local professionals to use their skills to fulfill nonprofits’ needs.

“Companies come to us and tell us, ‘We want to give back and allow our employees to have a fun, engaging professional development experience,’ ” said Laura Toscana, project manager at Greater DC Cares. “Our fingers have a pulse on what’s needed at the schools and projects around the city.”

After Rolls-Royce and Clear Channel expressed interest in serving, Greater DC Cares assigned them to one of the 800 nonprofits it partners with, Atlas Performing Arts Center — a community theater on H Street. The 25 employees painted two stairwells and walls in two rooms, completing 70 man-hours and $1,000 worth of work.

“Only once before have corporate volunteers helped in this way,” said Warner McCain, the theater’s facilities manager. “It’s always appreciated. People are willing to volunteer but don’t always have the skill set or time.”

It was Rolls-Royce’s third time volunteering with Greater DC Cares. The company, whose North America headquarters is in Reston, has a corporate philanthropy committee, composed of employees across all levels, through which community service projects and grant requests are reviewed.

It typically does two large community service projects each year. In the past, employees made quilts for deployed soldiers, and painted fences and done yard work at the Northern Virginia Therapeutic Riding program, which provides horseback riding lessons to Fairfax residents with disabilities.

“It’s great for morale, that the employees see the company supporting them volunteer and that we’re putting dollars directly into the community,” said Katie DiDonato, Rolls- Royce communications coordinator and project coordinator for the service event.

Clear Channel provided in-kind services, running public service announcements and on-air promotions.

“We do a lot of community outreach,” said Kim Sauer, Clear Channel promotions director. “It’s fun to be able to do something as a team . . . and see people in their normal environments.”

Clear Channel has a listener advisory board, comprised of employees, nonprofit leaders and community members, that meets once a quarter to decide its service outreach projects.

Greater DC Cares partners with 150 businesses each year. Other corporate partners for the event included University of Phoenix, Hilton Worldwide, Deloitte, Blackboard, Verizon, Grant Thornton, Geico, the Washington Capitals and Geppetto Catering.

Vanessa Small covers philanthropy and nonprofits for Capital Business. She also spotlights newly appointed executives in the New at the Top column, which chronicles their journeys to the top. Small was raised in Orange County, Ca. and graduated from Howard University.
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