Employees like to feel committed to their employer’s mission, and that’s easier when the mission includes being a socially aware corporate citizen. Many companies recognize that the collection of diverse people and skills they assemble every day presents a unique opportunity to offer volunteer help to community service organizations. At TMP Worldwide and AIA Worldwide, its U.K. subsidiary, we practice what we preach.
Recently, I was privileged to spend the day volunteering at Ace of Clubs in London with several coworkers. The experience was moving, motivating and magnificent.
I was inspired by the people who are members of the Ace of Clubs community – both as clients and volunteers/staff. Sarah Miles, who manages the facility, performs many roles: counselor, den mother, friend, police officer, triage nurse, fundraiser and general manager. Her dedication is matched by the other staff as well as the many volunteers who give freely of their time to help make a difference to the community.
Patricia, a volunteer in her 80s, is a nun who spends four days a week at different charities including St. Thomas’ Hospital, a local elder care facility, and Ace of Clubs. Her lilting Irish accent provides a soft and welcoming tone to those who come to the center. She balances her strict nature with a kind word and a smile and refuses to turn anyone away.
James Hopkirk is a journalist, writer and photographer who is documenting the stories of the local charities and NGOs in and around South London. James is at Ace of Clubs frequently, speaking with the homeless, vulnerable, and otherwise marginalized to capture their stories and offer them a chance to have a friendly chat with a kind, caring person. One of the people whose story James has recorded is Lavilla. Lavilla was at the center during our visit and I was able to interact with her several times – in somewhat limited fashion – and found her to be charming. She certainly loves her sweets!
Like other volunteers, we peeled potatoes, chopped vegetables, sliced plums, wiped tables, served teas and coffees, mopped floors, washed dishes, scrubbed pans, talked to center visitors, and would do it all again.
We fed more than 80 people that day. Each person pays £1 for their meal so they feel a sense of pride in their ability to help themselves in some small way. Much of the food comes to the center as donations from Nandos, KFC, Pret and others. The cost of a meal on a per capita basis is about £.70p ($.92) and rises to £1 ($1.31) if donations aren’t made. The meals that are served are three courses, with salads, soups, sandwiches, mains and pudding (desert).
All of us from AIA who attended worked hard, harder than we thought we might. I, for one, got home and promptly fell asleep for two hours. But the work we did fed my soul and was a reminder of just how fortunate we are to have families, homes, jobs and health.
The day was impactful and life-affirming. It was an honor and privilege for me to work with such a great, caring and kind group of people. And it was an inspiring example of what a dedicated, collaborative group of people can accomplish, even in circumstances much more difficult than most of us face in our daily work.
As I always say, it costs nothing to be kind.