Cultivating a Compassionate Community: Where Are We Today?

Stephanie Greene.

Stephanie Greene.

Mayor Greg Fischer has outlined impressive goals, including his vision of Louisville being the most compassionate city. His Give A Day initiative the week of April 15-22 coincides with National Volunteer Week and has a goal of drawing at least 55,000 local volunteers. Data about volunteerism in Louisville and Kentucky is not as world-class. A 2010 survey by the Corporation for National and Community Service ranks Kentucky 40th in the U.S. for volunteer participation. Louisville did not fare much better, ranking 31 out of 51 cities for volunteer rates, and falling behind neighbors like Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Nashville. Louisville has a thriving nonprofit community, but the data suggests that perhaps we are taking our nonprofits and their invaluable services for granted. It is up to us, as individuals and employers not only to support Give A Day, but to invest in the long term health of our nonprofits and our city. Nonprofits are suffering budget and revenue challenges in the recession too, and volunteer efforts are vital to their ability to continue to impact the community and assist those in need.

Why is this Important?

Nonprofits contribute to a healthy community by providing much needed services. They tutor students, help the elderly remain at home, feed the hungry, shelter victims of domestic violence, assist the homeless, comfort the dying, provide after-school programs to at risk youth – the list could go on and on. This year, I am taking part in the Leadership Louisville Center’s Ignite Louisville program, which allows me to team up with other young professionals and get hands-on experience benefiting local nonprofits through the Yum! IGNITES Louisville Challenge. My team is working with YouthBuild Louisville, a 10-year-old nonprofit based in Smoketown, and I was immediately struck by their impact in our community.

YouthBuild acts as a champion to young adults in Louisville, helping them realize their potential and become strong, confident people with a commitment to work, education, family and community. The program focuses on five areas: education, career vocational training, community service, social services and career development and placement. Most of the participants have dropped out of JCPS, are reading below grade level, and are struggling to find the right path.

It’s not for me to speculate where these young people would be if YouthBuild and programs like it did not exist, but what is clear is that the organization fosters the development of educated, engaged members in our community. Since 2001, YouthBuild has graduated 323 participants with 86 percent of students obtaining a GED and/or vocational training certificate. In the past three years, 45 students have attended college, helping the Louisville community meet its goal of 55,000 college degrees in the next 10 years. The other major tenet of YouthBuild’s mission is community service. Each student completes 675 hours of service during their program year. Since its inception, YouthBuild Louisville students have built 10 new homes, rehabbed 15 homes, created 200 community gardens and developed three miles of trails in local parks. These young adults are working so hard to build their own lives and still manage to contribute so much to our city. I think that is something worthy of the community’s support.

Powered by people

It starts with you. Individuals working together are at the center of social change, demonstrating their collective power to create positive transformation. Volunteering is ultimately about helping others, but there are plenty of benefits for the individual too. World Volunteers Web has research indicating that 73 percent of employers would recruit a candidate with volunteer experience over one without. Other studies show that people who volunteer regularly live longer, enjoy greater levels of life satisfaction, and suffer less depression. If nothing else, you are sure to expand your social circle, tap into new hobbies and interests and probably develop new skills.

Part of being a good corporate citizen is creating a culture of civic engagement. Many employers have signaled support for Give A Day Week, including Yum! Brands, Humana, Brown-Forman, and Chase Bank. At 21c Museum Hotels, President Craig Greenberg has set a goal of 100 percent participation for the company’s 200 employees. To aid employees in their efforts, 21c formed an internal committee to coordinate volunteer opportunities. Additionally, the property is hosting a public donation center that will include a Red Cross Blood Drive and food collection point for Dare to Care. However companies choose to involve their employees, the first step is to communicate that volunteering is a priority, and that they have the support of the company to participate. In return, companies get well-rounded employees who experience greater job satisfaction.

My hope is that we not only meet the goals that our Mayor set out for us, but that we far exceed them. Let’s show our nonprofits the support they need to continue their work in our community.

Stephanie Greene
Public Relations Manager
21c Museum Hotels

Stephanie is the Public Relations Manager at 21c Museum Hotels, which oversees expansion, development, and management of 21c Museum Hotels nationally. Prior to joining 21c in 2010, she spent 7 years in San Francisco working in media relations for the wine industry. Stephanie lives in St. Matthews with her husband, Will, a pound puppy named Darcy and Gary the cat.