In the final week of April, more than 60 Aunt Bertha employees set aside their laptops and set to work helping nonprofits in a new way — by plucking weeds at a local farm, or packing food boxes for community distribution, or filling backpacks for children entering foster care.
It was part of Aunt Bertha’s first company-wide volunteer effort: Aunt Bertha Gives Back (ABGB). Created and coordinated by a group of employees, the initiative offers everyone at the company eight hours of paid time twice a year to volunteer with a nonprofit organization in their local area. Aunt Bertha’s mission to help connect people to social services draws a staff of people highly committed to their communities and dedicated to service.
Kim Flores, director of People Operations at Aunt Bertha, says the effort “signals to employees that we don’t only care about the immediate work we’re doing, but we care about the community at large. And it signals to the communities we’re in that we care about you, we want to contribute.”
For a business committed to helping people find help with dignity and ease, volunteering for direct-service nonprofits offers Aunt Bertha employees new opportunities to understand the needs of a community and the work organizations undertake to meet those needs.
“We talk about connecting people to help and engaging with the community,” says Mike Aaron, executive assistant at Aunt Bertha. “There’s no better way to connect people to help and engage with the community than experiencing it firsthand, and to support the work of these nonprofits.”
With the majority of Aunt Bertha’s employees based in Austin, much of this first ABGB effort centered there, focusing on groups like Central Texas Food Bank, Community First! Village, Urban Roots, Carrying Hope, and Farmshare Austin.
But employees nationwide also formed smaller groups in their cities to find ways to give back. Aunt Bertha staff in Denver volunteered at Food Bank of the Rockies; employees in Seattle gave their time to Wellspring Family Services; and a group in Madison, Wisconsin, supported the Madison Community Foundation.
In all, employees donated nearly 350 volunteer hours to 10 organizations across four states. Organizers for this effort hope the contributions increase as the initiative continues into the fall, and beyond.
Employees who coordinated the effort made sure to include COVID-safe options — opportunities outdoors or in large, open indoor spaces. But the group also included volunteer-from-home or solo opportunities, like making therapy dolls and delivering early Mother’s Day gifts to older women from South Asia who benefit from an organization called SAIVA.
“We really tried to find things that would meet people where they are in today’s climate, hoping that in the fall, we can have more opportunities to be together,” said Flores.
For employees who did volunteer in person in groups, ABGB was a welcome chance to see one another in the flesh — though still behind masks — after more than a year working from home in relative isolation.
“It provided really nice bonding experiences,” Flores said. “We’ve grown a lot in the past year and added a lot of new staff, so many people have never met in person. The volunteer outings allowed us to interact with coworkers and see them in a different environment and learn about each other.”
Candace Stohs-Krause, senior customer success manager at Aunt Bertha, volunteered at FarmShare Austin, pulling weeds from a carrot patch. “Despite the rain, it was a wonderful morning,” Stohs-Krause said.
“Not just being outside in the fresh air and supporting a great organization,” she added, “but also being in the same space as Berthlings I haven’t seen in more than a year, or have never actually met. Some people were a lot taller than I expected! I’m so glad we’re going to continue doing this regularly.”
FarmShare Austin executive director Andrea Abel, says volunteer groups at the farm go a long way to help staff get their work done.
“Volunteers are so vital because it means we have to expend fewer of our resources,” Abel said. “We really do rely on volunteer groups like Aunt Bertha’s coming out here. It energizes all of us to see the difference a couple hours can make with so many hands in the field. It’s significant because we just don’t always have the time to put into some of these projects.”
Abel added that staff have been spread thin over the past year, trying to get more work done amongst themselves, since volunteer programs were halted to protect against the spread of COVID-19.
Anthonee Esparza, business intelligence analyst for Aunt Bertha and a member of the volunteer working group, said his time spent volunteering at the Central Texas Food Bank was eye-opening. “It is tragic that this level of food insecurity exists, but it’s heartening to help support an organization fighting to do something about it.”
“I’m so thrilled to see the launch and success of the ABGB volunteer program,” he added. “It makes me proud to work for a company whose core value is to help people. We all usually contribute to this mission by doing our respective jobs in front of a computer monitor, so it was a pleasure to see folks roll up their sleeves and be on the front lines.”
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By the way, who’s Aunt Bertha?
Aunt Bertha is the leading referral platform for social services in America, serving the biggest cities and smallest towns. We connect people seeking help and the verified social care providers that serve them, with dignity and ease. We make it easy for people to find social services in their communities, for nonprofits to coordinate their efforts, and for organizations to integrate social care into the work they already do. We serve millions of users and our platform is used in a wide range of industries including education, government, housing, and healthcare.