National Volunteer Week 2023: Regence team members share why they give back
Throughout the year, Regence empowers employees to give back to their local communities in ways that mean most to them. This can include spending time at a volunteer event, coordinated by Regence or outside of work, or giving back through financial support, board service or other ways of helping.
In 2022, our generous colleagues volunteered nearly 11,300 hours across a large range of causes – this includes popular focus areas like helping animals (e.g. cat rescues, dog shelters), youth development (e.g. mentoring, reading), food and nutrition (e.g. food banks, delivering meals to seniors), and general health (e.g. blood drives, awareness walks).
In celebration of National Volunteer Week, we spoke with several Regence employees about the causes that mean most to them, why they volunteer and more. Quotes have been edited for brevity and clarity.
Shalisa Hayes - Eastside Community Center (Washington)
When you visit the Eastside Community Center, you’re standing in my son’s dream. Back in 2011, my then 17-year-old son asked how to open a community center. When I asked why he wanted to know, he said, “Because mom, if you look around, there’s nowhere for kids on the eastside to go.” Based on his experience in the city he was born in, he knew there was something lacking in the city in which we currently resided. Six months later, my son unfortunately lost his life to gun violence. I then decided to take on his dream – if a 17-year-old kid can recognize a need for a community center, then we as adults needed to recognize it and make it happen.
Today the Eastside Community Center creates an environment where young people, as well as adults and families, can come together. A lot of what the organization does is simply open its doors and provide a space for our community, partnering with community members and other organizations to offer a safe space, activities and more. We serve a lot of kids through the center, which helps connect them and also offers the chance to do community service together.
The Billy Ray Shirley III Recording Studio at the Eastside Community center is named after my son, which is huge for the neighborhood. Youth dream of being in a recording studio, to work in a studio and learn different skills. It’s all about the opportunity to give back, whether it’s financial or volunteering time. I feel fortunate that I can continue to support the Eastside Community Center and realize my son’s dream of helping our local community for many years.
Gina Ball – Ruff Haven Crisis Sheltering (Utah)
Ruff Haven Crisis Sheltering’s mission is to provide temporary safe haven for companion animals in order to keep pets and their people together in times of crisis, increase pet retention, and decrease the number of animals entering the shelter system. In addition to crisis sheltering, Ruff Haven provides other services like free pet food delivery, grooming for all sheltering clients, vaccination clinics, and doggie day camp services. They also provide a monthly visit to provide free vaccines and wellness checks for animals living with the unhoused community of Salt Lake City.
I love animals and I really wanted to volunteer at an organization that helps them. The team at Ruff Haven is truly amazing! I cannot say enough good things about the nonprofit and all that Ruff Haven does for the community. The compassion and empathy they have for all members of our community and their pets are what really motivated me to volunteer. It’s been great to work with such a wonderful organization. I feel like I’m making an impact on these animals and their families. I don’t know what I would do if I found myself in a situation where I would have to give up my pets to a shelter.
It makes me so happy to help these animals feel safe and loved during their stay at Ruff Haven. I am a cat person, so I usually volunteer in the cat room, which is called Purradise City. This includes playing with the cats, cleaning litter boxes, and making sure they’re fed. I’ve had many great experiences with Ruff Haven, however one of my favorites was the Doggy Fashion Show. Our models were adorable dogs in need of foster homes while waiting to be reunited with their families. I strutted the catwalk (or dogwalk) with the sweetest long-haired chihuahua – and a foster application was submitted for him that same day!
Matty Hackl – Friends of the Children (Oregon)
Friends of the Children-Portland guides, supports and mentors hundreds of youth across the Portland metro area. Their mission is to impact generational change by empowering youth who are facing the greatest obstacles through relationships with professional mentors for 12+ years, no matter what. You can watch “The Power of One” video to learn more about the incredible work done by Friends.
What drew me to the organization, and why I’m still engaged, is how well its mission is thought out and executed. Friends was born out of extensive research on the most effective way to help young children overcome adversity and reach their potential. The organization is now 30 years old and has 29 chapters across the U.S. and in the United Kingdom – and they’ve won numerous awards for their social impact. There are other mentorship organizations doing wonderful work, but Friends is simply in a league of their own in comparison. The children, those with the greatest risk factors, are identified in kindergarten and matched with a paid professional mentor to walk beside them for 12 and a half years – through high school graduation or the equivalent.
Personally, I needed an organization like Friends of the Children when I was a child. It didn’t exist. I’ve shared my story with the founder of Friends, Duncan Campbell, and that I couldn’t have dreamed up a more perfect organization to help children just like me. That’s why I support Friends of the Children.
I connected with Friends when the organization became a Regence customer. As their account executive, I was invited by the HR director to join a monthly all-staff meeting to present on a health-related topic. They invited me to stay for the rest of the meeting after my presentation. I knew a little about the organization and wanted to learn more. What I witnessed for the next 60 minutes or so changed me. Their monthly all-staff meetings were an opportunity to announce and thank their employee of the month. It was a complete “love-fest” and most everyone shared nice things about their team members. At the end, I was invited to join the monthly meeting, share new health topics, and participate in the Employee of the Month celebration. I was hooked!
In addition to the first all-staff meeting, there are so many great memories. I’ve volunteered with Friends in different ways, including a sports camp, a Timbers soccer training, building the Friends gardens at the Rockwood facility, and summer reading camps, to name just a few. I was eventually asked to be on their Ambassador Board, which is a young professionals board designed to spread the word about Friends to friends and family as well as promote them on social media. In addition, we held an annual fundraiser, and I had the distinction of being the event MC for many years. Today I serve on Friends’ Marketing & PR Committee to help with those efforts, and I continue to support through events, personal donations, and spreading the word about all the great work they do.
Miguel Rovira – Wasatch Adaptive Sports (Utah)
I volunteer with Wasatch Adaptive Sports (WAS), serving on the board of directors for the last 6 years, including as chairman of the organization during COVID. The nonprofit’s mission is to encourage individuals with adaptive needs and their families to realize their potential and engage in active living through recreational, educational and social programs. Utah has a large, underserved community of individuals with disabilities. At WAS, we’re creating a community in which people of all abilities experience the power of recreation whenever and wherever they choose.
I first became aware of WAS while teaching skiing on weekends at Snowbird Ski Resort. At that time, WAS’ office was located next to the ski instructors lounge, and I would visit with the adaptive instructors and volunteers while waiting for a ski teaching assignment. The founder of WAS, Peter Mandler, and I became friends because we share a passion for technical skiing. We’d discuss similarities and differences of ski technique in adaptive and able-bodied skiing.
In 2016, I was invited to join WAS board of directors and it’s been an incredible experience. In addition to monthly board meetings, I’ve helped mentor the organization’s leadership as well as supported their fundraising team. My board commitment includes being on the Executive Committee, which requires additional time per week.
I’ve also volunteered at WAS together with my youngest daughter, Elena, who was a competitive skier and dancer. She was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) when she was 14. EDS is a group of inherited disorders that affect connective tissues, primarily skin, joins and blood vessel walls. Connective tissue is a complex mixture of proteins and other substances that provide strength and elasticity to the underlying structures in your body. Elena uses a wheelchair for mobility and access. She skis using outriggers (a device that looks like a metal crutch with small plastic ski tips at the ends) and she teaches adaptive dancing to individuals with mobility issues for Salt Lake County. She’s also an ambassador for WAS and helps our fundraising efforts. Our work with WAS is even more meaningful now because my daughter brings her perspectives and ideas to the organization, and we continue to volunteer with lessons together. She says Wasatch Adaptive Sports is the model for the rest of the world when it comes to facilitating access for individuals to enjoy the outdoors and to be part of an accepting and inclusive community.
Darcie Teats – Valley Meals on Wheels (Idaho)
I’ve worked in our community with seniors and people living with disabilities for years, and I currently volunteer with Valley Meals on Wheels in Lewiston. There are many people in our community who wouldn’t be able to have a meal if it weren’t delivered. Through volunteering, I’ve seen the importance this nonprofit makes in our community.
I knew about the organization for years but didn’t start volunteering with them until a few years ago when some colleagues were doing meal deliveries. Today I volunteer regularly with Valley Meals on Wheels. This includes delivering hot and cold meals to homes every other month, and I’ve also volunteered through dispensing meals at the food bank, joining adopt-a-road cleanups, helping with the United Way as well as doing the Day of Caring for about 6 years. COVID has definitely changed how often I’ve volunteered recently, but I’d love to start doing it more again.
For me, the best part of volunteering is when folks open their doors and see a friendly face delivering them a meal. Many of the people we help don’t have any other social connections except when they’re getting a meal. It feels good to brighten someone else’s day with a small gesture. You can see the impact even from doing something really small and how it can help your community.
Amplifying the generosity of Regence employee volunteers and giving
Regence’s corporate foundation supports employee giving year-round, including a 50% match on employee donations to eligible 501(c)3 nonprofits. In 2022, our foundation also introduced a volunteer rewards program called Dollars for Doers to increase the impact of employee volunteers. When colleagues log their volunteer time, the foundation directors $20 per hour to a cause of their choice, up to $400 in a year. You can read more about our company’s philanthropic efforts by reading the 2022 Community Impact Report.