A New Days of Caring Pilot Initiative

Volunteers from Davis+Henderson paint a United Way agency for Days of Caring event.
Photo: Brent Lewin

Davis + Henderson employees take a quick break while volunteering at United Way agency Community Living Toronto.

On April 29th, they turned off their cellphones and BlackBerrys and left their laptops and briefcases behind. And then they hit the road. "They" were some 125 employees representing ten corporate partners and they were participating in a pilot project of United Way Toronto's Days of Caring program.

Community support finds success

To date there have been two approaches to Days of Caring: customized programs that meet the specific requests of corporate partners, and campaign-wide, scheduled Days of Caring whereby United Way member agencies submit lists of projects for which workplace partners sign up. Both have been extremely successful. In fact, campaign-wide days have seen a 100 per cent increase in participants over the past five years! The April 29th pilot—Community Day of Caring— was different in two ways. First, it was designed to focus on the needs of a single community, in this case Scarborough. Second, to identify community needs and projects, organizers reached out to a wider range of local community based organizations. In addition to United Way member agencies/hubs, they connected with Neighbourhood Associations and City of Toronto Parks and Recreation.

This "new" approach was driven by United Way's Community Impact Strategy, which recognizes that we can only make neighbourhoods better by partnering with all community stakeholders—including our member agencies, schools, government, business, labour, voluntary associations and other local groups. Working together we can understand social trends better, tackle the root causes of problems and determine long term community goals. By mobilizing all community resources, we can create unique volunteer opportunities in addition to the annual campaign and the agency programs that our campaign funding supports.

For the United Way team, the pilot was very successful and provided valuable inputs for future planning. The team hopes to expand this approach to many more communities. For the 125 participants, the April 29th Community Day of Caring pilot was both eye opening and very meaningful. The Davis + Henderson experience sums it up well.

What a difference a day makes!

Davis + Henderson, Canada's premier provider of cheque supply and other programs to the financial services sector, was one of the corporate partners in the pilot with two employee groups participating. The first group spent the morning at the Scarborough Region site of Community Living Toronto, a member agency that provides support to over 6,000 people with an intellectual disability and their families. Armed with brushes and buckets, these employees painted the lobby and stairwells. During the course of the morning, they had a chance to learn about the vital work and comprehensive programs provided by this agency. They also had a chance to meet colleagues from different departments at Davis + Henderson, to connect with each other in ways that often aren't possible at work, to feel good about their company, their team and their volunteer efforts.

The second Davis + Henderson group spent the day at A.C.C.E.S. Employment Services, a member agency that specializes in helping new Canadians find employment in their field. Here they participated in a "Speed Mentoring" day, meeting with newcomers, conducting brief mentorship interviews, and providing job search advice. One individual clearly had skills and qualifications that fit Davis + Henderson's hiring criteria. His "mentor" invited him to submit his resume and pointed him in the right direction. The outcome? A new employee for Davis + Henderson… and a dream come true for a newcomer!

A New Days of Caring Pilot Initiative was a Feature in our quarterly newsletter, Community Matters: Summer 2008.

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