How companies are caring for people’s long-term health through their annual support of United Way :: WRAL.com

How companies are caring for people's long-term health through their annual support of United Way :: WRAL.com


This article was written for our sponsor, United Way of the Greater Triangle.

It’s been over one year since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and vaccination rates are slowly increasing as people are returning to normal schedules. Through the struggles of the last year, many companies have faced new challenges with regard to managing the health of their employees and the communities around them.

While the focus has been on internal health, companies are beginning to resume some of the external community support that had been on pause.

“During the pandemic we were focused on protecting our people, putting a lot of programs in place to make sure that we were taking care of our people, so that they weren’t out on an island by themselves, then giving what we could where we could after that,” said Michael DePaolis, senior vice president of sales at Weatherby Healthcare and board member at United Way of the Greater Triangle. “Some of our folks have done some volunteer work virtually, but it’s just not quite as fulfilling for them as going out and actually getting in the community. I’m hopeful that as we’re moving toward opening back up, people are able to get involved in that aspect again. Still, I’ve seen some of the amazing work United Way is doing, even through those challenging times.”

DePaolis and Weatherby Healthcare have been involved with United Way for years, and the company often encourages employees to take volunteer time off. Volunteer time off is unlimited and gives employees the chance to take time off work and instead donate their time to food banks and volunteer organizations — many of which are supplied through connections with United Way.

In providing these chances for volunteerism, DePaolis sees not only an advantage for the health of the community but also the health of employees.

“Through the work we do and the work United Way helps us get involved in, we’re able to connect to things that are really fulfilling and have a company behind us that not only encourages it, but really wants to participate,” said DePaolis. “That external work in the community has been a linchpin in employee engagement through our organization. People will go out, then the ancillary benefit to that is the team building that they do when they go out together as a group, serving at a shelter or waiting tables. That camaraderie that really feeds them.”

For companies looking to get started with community-driven programs, DePaolis acknowledges that it can seem challenging. Starting small can help companies who are testing the waters better understand their capacity to serve.

“Getting started in and of itself is important, then I think growth comes from there. We’re a sales organization, so we like goals and we like achieving new heights. We didn’t do anything crazy, but we set our goal higher every year than it was the following year, and we got people really excited about trying to do more,” said DePoalis. “Why? Because it wasn’t aligned with their pocketbooks — it was literally to give to other people. If you have that type of mentality and you start at a place where it’s digestible, it will build every year.”

For DePaolis, volunteering and giving back to the community is only possible if his employees are well-taken care of — and his approach to community-driven support is rooted first in support for the long-term health of those he works with.

“It’s having an equal approach to taking care of your people so that they can take care of others. Get involved in taking care of your people internally, so that they want to pay that forward. There are resources, there are people that can help, and it pays off dividends in the end,” said Depaolis. “The thing I’ve been most proud of is watching my team grab on to that atmosphere of philanthropy and giving. The engagement and the fulfillment that I’ve seen and hearing about what they do every day with the community has been one of my proudest experiences.”

This article was written for our sponsor, United Way of the Greater Triangle.



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Kassie Hoffman
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