Exelon employees live the company’s culture of volunteerism.
As part of Jacob Kitchel’s duties as principal IT architect at ComEd, Exelon’s northern Illinois utility, he wields virtual data and works with computer software. When he dons gloves, an apron and a hairnet to volunteer with more than 130 coworkers this month at the Northern Illinois Food Bank, in Geneva, Ill., his tasks will be more physically hands-on.
“Packing meals is not something you always get to experience working in IT,” Kitchel said.
There are jobs for everyone: repackaging non-perishable canned goods; sealing bags of beans with a hot iron; distributing large amounts of cereal, grains and rice; and filling backpacks with meals for children in need to take home for the weekends.
This is the fifth year of ComEd’s food bank volunteer program, sponsored by Mark Browning, vice president of IT and CIO of Exelon Utilities, and each year, the employee participation has grown tremendously (starting with 25 volunteers in the first year). Last year, the 100-plus volunteers who signed up to work at the food bank exceeded expectations so much that they had to split off into morning and afternoon shifts. These employees contributed to the 129,178 volunteer hours Exelon workers logged in their communities in 2015.
At last year’s event, ComEd employees packed 33,795 pounds of food (more than 16 tons), which provided 28,161 meals for those in need. Browning said 2016’s goal is 35,000 pounds of food.
“We lay down a challenge: Whatever we did last year, let’s do better this year,” he said.
Helping others is the objective ComEd employees set out to achieve.
Christy Bartlett, IT manager with ComEd, organizes the event at the Northern Illinois Food Bank, which uses 97percent of its resources for programs that feed the hungry. For every dollar donated, the food bank provides $8 worth of groceries to those in need. That commitment and measurable effectiveness are what Exelon seeks in nonprofit partners.
“It’s really quite an impact,” Bartlett said. “What we’re doing is actually going to help people. A food bank is something people can really relate to: We all have to eat. I can’t imagine not knowing where my next meal is going to come from, or if I’m a child, where my next meal is going to come from.”
Although Bartlett has volunteered with many other causes through ComEd, she’s most passionate about packing meals because she feels like she’s making a tangible difference by helping people fulfill a need while also raising money. In the same vein, Bartlett has also built garden beds to grow fresh fruits and vegetables for another food bank in Joliet, Ill.
Volunteering through Exelon programs has its benefits, Bartlett said, as the company will donate $100 to an employee’s nonprofit of choice after 10 hours of volunteering.
“Ten hours isn’t really a lot of time,” Bartlett said.
Exelon matches employee giving to make a greater impact.
Causing change and supporting those in need significantly improve the communities Exelon serves. It’s a message the company’s employees practice year round and especially during National Volunteer Week.
Exelon supports causes that matter more to employees by matching their donations to eligible 501(c)3 organizations, dollar-for-dollar, and in 2015, the company granted $2.19 million in matching gifts.
In addition to attendance and food-packing goals, Bartlett and Browning set a fundraising goal of $2,500 and encourage employees to get their individual donations of $25 or more matched by Exelon.
“This volunteering event raises awareness of the impact we have as a company and as employees on society,” Browning said. “It’s grounding, humbling. We at ComEd and Exelon can take for granted our situations as gainfully employed workers. Not everyone has those opportunities. It’s a good reminder that some people struggle to put food on the table.”
Those who can’t join for the food-packing event can donate online
, and those who can volunteer in person are encouraged to have family and friends sign up.
“Ultimately, that turns into an increased number of meals to provide the neighboring communities,” Bartlett said. “More people helping and volunteering equal more food.”