This year, for West Monroe’s National Day of Service, I had the opportunity to volunteer with the Salvation Army on a beautification project at the Chicago Temple Corps Community Center and Booth Manor Senior Residences. The Salvation Army was a perfect partner for NDOS because of its significant local impact throughout the Chicagoland area and our long-standing partnership with them. Our task was to put a fresh coat of robin’s egg blue paint in the hallways of the community center and the senior residences and paint a bright yellow stripe in the gymnasium. Salvation Army staff warned that the seniors may critique our work, supervising to make sure it was perfect, but also told us of the excitement the children would have when they passed by the first coat of color in the gymnasium. We may have been amateur painters, but we confidently accepted the challenge!
Oscar Wilde said “mere color can speak to the soul in a thousand different ways” and that’s exactly what happened at the Salvation Army. The children and residents were grateful to have new, colorful hallways to brighten their days. But perhaps Linda Reiter, Salvation Army’s Volunteer Resource Manager, explains the impact our service had best.
"The work done by our friends at West Monroe will touch so many lives and we are so very grateful for their support. They worked at three locations -- brightening our senior center by painting resident hallways, painting the gym and hallways at our west Loop community center and Headstart location, and making blankets for our homeless outreach and shelter programs. West Monroe employees have made an impact that will make a real difference to those in need. We thank them for their hard work and enthusiasm in bringing the spirit of volunteerism to life."
In all, we provided 135 volunteer hours, worth an estimated $3,500 to the Salvation Army. But to West Monroe, the impact this act of service had was invaluable. Here are my biggest lessons learned from our National Day of Change experience at the Salvation Army:
Teamwork is enhanced in a service setting: Working together to do good for others makes working easy and fun. Volunteering makes it simple to walk into a room with a group of people you don't know and immediately start working towards a goal together. Why is teamwork so easy in a situation like this but sometimes so difficult on work projects? Because there are no agendas, hierarchies, or other barriers to cooperative behavior when you are volunteering. You have one goal and you will do what it takes to get there together.
Siloes can't exist when you're volunteering: It's easy for siloes to form when we are busy. You get caught up in your own to-do list, meet and socialize with the same teams, and forget the world around you. Days like NDOC make you step back and see the power of teamwork in action - employees from all levels, practices, and tenure – each bringing their own expertise to the table.
When you're feeling burned-out, give more: When you are working long, hard days the last thing you think about is giving more of your time. But that's exactly what you should do. Adam Grant writes about the 100-hour rule of volunteering in his book "Give and Take." 100 hours of volunteering a year is the "point where giving is maximally energizing and minimally draining." During NDOC, the power of this theory finally hit home for me. When you take time to give back to others and experience something new, you feel rejuvenated -- just like our fresh coat of paint gave the hallways new life.
You're going to make mistakes, but that’s okay: When you start a project, whether for work or volunteering, you are likely to make mistakes along the way. When we were painting the hallways, we accidentally painted a door robin's egg blue. After following through on our mistake, we realized we needed to paint a few more doors in that hallway for consistency. What started out as a mistake turned into a much better output. As we were leaving, we passed by a door in a different hallway and simultaneously thought to ourselves "that door would look better blue." The group contemplated unpacking the supplies to continue our "mistake" on the remaining door.
The lessons we learned at NDOS will continue to benefit our work and West Monroe as a whole. I am thankful for a company that lets us fulfill higher goals and give back to our community and we are excited to continue our partnership with the Salvation Army and help it further its mission to help people in need.