Thursday, November 5, 2009

Why I give

Each year at work, we're asked to donate to the United Way.  Well, we get emails and a pledge card in our check and are asked to give and contribute towards a company-wide goal. Some hate being asked for money. Some are the first to turn in their pledge card. I help with our workplace  campaign because of something my mom said a long ago to me when I was 16 years old.

In high school, I worked at Baker's, a grocery chain now owned by Kroger. My mom shopped at Baker's each week as far back as I could remember along with my grandma who would take me with her to the store each week with her when I went to kindergarten by her house. My grandma would make a deal with me -- "Shannon, stay by my grocery cart. If you get lost and they have to page me, no Whatchmacallit bar." (Are you seeing a trend? It's starting to explain my sweet tooth).  I was known for wandering off and then crying that I was lost so they'd page my mom and grandma. Of course, they were mortified each time when I did this.  I liked going to Baker's as a child because I'd hang out by the magazines and read about Duran Duran while my mom would shop with her list and coupons. The staff all seemed to know her and we always went to the same cashier.

Back then, Baker's was locally owned and a pretty cool place for a teenager to start gain work experience. I don't think Baker's had any standards in hiring their grocery sackers. The ultimate goals was to train their employees to be "people pleasers." Back then, there was a trend going on in Omaha that most grocery stores didn't have grocery sackers and you'd save money if you bagged your groceries yourself. Not Baker's. We were trained to take out even one sack of groceries even if the customer would fuss, we'd still do it. They even gave us topics to talk about so we had more to talk about than the weather and how the Huskers were doing during football season.  Baker's shaped my customer service skills. I swear, I went to a week long training class on how to sack groceries correctly in a paper sack and a plastic bag. It drives me bonkers when I go to the grocery store and they put potatoes on top of my bread or bleach with my apples.

Baker's was a very community minded store. They were always doing a food drive or sponsoring an event in the community. At our weekly produce test meeting, one of my fellow employees got up and talked about the United Way and why we should give. The woman was a volunteer at the local chapter of Big Brothers, Big Sisters. I never qualified for this program though I came from a divorced family and didn't have a big sister but I still felt passionate that there was kids out there that needed the service. My co-worker asked us to please consider giving one hour of pay (then it was $3.75) a month to help someone who needs it. I was touched but I was really saving up for my car insurance because I was going to buy my mom's '92 Chevy Monte Carlo and couldn't spare the $3.75 a month. I tucked the pledge card in my purse and went on trying to remember the number for green peppesr (4065).

A few days later, I was cleaning out my purse and I was about to throw the pledge card away when my mom grabbed it.

"You're throwing your United Way pledge card away?" she said.

"Umm, yea. Why?"

"You know United Way helps those in need? They help singles moms who need to go to college so they can feed their children and not depend on welfare," she said. I stared blankly wondering what her point was. "Singles moms with no college education and small hungry kids. Small hungry kids who she wanted to send to Catholic school. You know those uniforms are expensive."

"Oh, I get it, you're saying the United Way sent you to college?" I was sorta getting her point.

"Well, not the United Way but one of the agencies, Catholic Charities, helped me get into the community college so I could study computers and feed my hungry children so they could go to Catholic grade school, " she handed the pledge card back to me with a pen. "You can give something. You're only going to spend it on clothes and Guess jeans anyway," she was right and had a point. I gave $4 a pay check and I've been giving (when my work place allows it) ever since.

When I moved to Bend, I had the pleasure for working for the United Way. Each year, many community members volunteer to go out and tell their United Way story. When I worked for the United Way, I told that story once to a group in Sunriver. I didn't think I could get through it without crying since my mom died. I didn't want anyone asking me "I'm sure your mom is proud" and have to be a buzz kill and say my mom isn't alive. Maybe if I would have told that story, I could have inspired more 16 year olds to give? So I'm telling you no -- that's why I give.

It's United Way time across the country. If you have a work place campaign, it's easy to give and most places, like Central Oregon, 97% of your donation will go to those in need. To learn more about the United Way in your community, check out their website.

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