On November 27, 2012, I had the opportunity to participate with Edelman Chicago colleagues at a Habitat for Humanity (“Habitat”) build site in West Pullman as part of an inaugural #GivingTuesday event. #GivingTuesday is a day-long, national initiative that encourages people to give back in their communities.
Edelman Chicago sent a total of 45 volunteers to build sites in West Pullman and Waukegan, while nearly 50 employees back at the office directed traffic to Facebook, Twitter and other social media channels, as well as the website for Habitat for Humanity in Chicago to share photos and live updates from the Habitat build sites and encourage people to raise money for the organization.
Habitat for Humanity’s mission is to provide housing for low-income families. Rather than giving them a hand out, they give them a “hand up,” requiring that they fulfill volunteer hours and attend financial planning and other life skills classes.
I was impressed by the mission of Habitat, which is focused on neighborhood revitalization and community building. In Chicago, there are 260,000 families who are in need of proper housing. There is a common misconception that Habitat provides free housing, when in reality, homes are provided based on 1) need; 2) the prospective owner’s willingness to pay the interest-free mortgage (average of $750 per month in Chicago, which is often less than rent), and 3) 500 hours of “sweat equity,” which is required before closing on a house. Prospective home owners can volunteer at build sites, work at resale shops, or work in the community or at the Habitat for Humanity offices to fulfill their 500 hours of service.
During our day of volunteering, I worked side-by-side with a group of dedicated Edelman employees who took the opportunity to get out from behind their desks and get dusty and dirty. Using some of the tools was a first-time experience for many, and I’m so happy to have been able to share this experience with our employees.
In working at the West Pullman build site and thinking about the Habitat for Humanity mission and vision, I got to thinking about how what the organization is looking at the bigger picture – not just one family or one house. The organization wants to rebuild entire communities to make them sustainable – places where families can grow and thrive and feel safe and protected.
Efforts in sustainability, whether they have an environmental or social focus, must be holistic. In the end, the total impact is the sum of all its parts. That is what we are striving to achieve at Edelman, as we seek to integrate sustainability into our company’s culture. In your experience, what seems to have worked?
John Edelman is managing director of global engagement and corporate responsibility