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Mercy Pledges to Give Back to the Community

In this segment of the KSMU Sense of Community Series, Michele Skalicky tells us about an anniversary celebration in Springfield that's expected to result in many hours of volunteer time for the community.

Mercy Springfield is getting ready to celebrate its 125th year.  When an organization celebrates a big anniversary, they’ll often host special events, there might be cake involved, but an idea to celebrate THIS anniversary will benefit the entire community.

Molly Holtmann is volunteer coordinator at Mercy, and she helped plan how to celebrate the anniversary.  She served in a subcommittee group on community engagement.

"We were trying to think of a way we could get the co-workers engaged in the community and also trying to bring it back to the Sisters of Mercy and what they did for the community 125 years ago," she said.

What they came up with was a challenge to Mercy staff:  to volunteer 125,000 hours over the next year—that is November 6, 2015, the day the Sisters of Mercy came to Springfield 124 years ago to the 125th anniversary on November 6, 2016.

"And the idea is just that if we can get, you know, our eight to 10,000 regional co-workers to give back to their community, imagine the impact that it will have," she said.

Holtmann has been pleased by the response so far.  Employees are asked to pledge a certain number of volunteer hours, and Holtmann will contact them quarterly to find out how many they’ve actually worked.  She’ll find out what projects they did and the impact they had.

She’s suggested ways staff can give their time to others, and employees were shown a video of the needs in the area.

"Things like, you know, we have 800 homeless kids that go to our schools right here in Springfield, things like the fact that Missouri is the second hungriest state in the United States, you know, things that are just not good things about what's happening in our community, and we then gave them a whole list of not-for-profits in this whole region that they could help," she said.

Mercy staff is already busy volunteering in the community.

A recent Wednesday found members of the hospital’s communications department helping out at Convoy of Hope. 

They toured the facility, learned about the organization and then got to work packing pasta.  Dan Williams is volunteer project manager at Convoy of Hope.

"We get pasta in totes that are about 1400 pounds.  We break them down into five-meal packs and those get distributed to 10 different countries and will go to feed the 150,000 kids that we feed everyday," he said.

Credit Michele Skalicky / KSMU
Pasta Ready to be Bagged

Molly Erickson, director of public relations at Convoy of Hope, said they rely heavily on partner organizations—people who donate gifts in kind.  She said 98 percent of the product in their warehouse is donated, which allows them to give food away for free.

And they rely on volunteers.

"This year we've used more than 40,000 volunteers across all of our initiatives to kind of help us reach as many people as possible and donations, so from individuals, businesses, churches, kind of across the board we rely on all of that support to do what we do," she said.

She said Convoy of Hope has served more than 70 million people since 1994 and there’s no way that could have been possible without groups and individuals that help pack food.

Every Tuesday night the organization holds “Hands of Hope” from 6:30 to 8:30 where anyone can volunteer packing food, sorting clothes and helping with other projects.

But Convoy of Hope also has groups, like this one from Mercy, some in at other times to help out.

After getting instructions and finding out what they would be doing, the group got to work filling bags with pasta and putting the bags into boxes to be shipped out.  And they had fun, too.

Jenni Jacka, strategy and communications manager with Mercy, is a regular volunteer at several places in Springfield.  She loves the idea of working towards 125,000 volunteer hours and said it’s a way employees can make a small difference.  But she also  hopes it will have a lasting impact.

"I hope it will inspire a lot more regular volunteers to continue to volunteer, you know, throughout the years to come," she said.

Julie Jones, executive director of marketing, said the communications department has pledged to donate 52 hours per co-worker toward the cause.  She’s excited about the effort.

"What a great way to give back to the community that's given so much, you know, for 125 years," she said.

Molly Holtmann hopes that by next November 6, Mercy staff will have far surpassed the 125,000 volunteer hours goal.  And she hopes the impact of the year-long project will be huge both on the community and on Mercy staff.

"I am saddened when I go to my son's school and I find out that they have a food pantry because they have so many families that are hungry, you know, not only hungry at lunchtime, you know, they kids are on free lunches, but when they go home they don't have any food at home.  And when I went to his teacher conferences to have a teacher tell me that she knows that they have homeless children, you know.  That makes me so sad.  I know that we have co-workers here at Mercy that are, you know, struggling, and, you know, I know that across the city we have many, many people that are struggling.  And I think that when you get outside of yourself and you help someone else that's really the best that you're ever going to feel," she said.

She said she’s hopeful the effort will result in strong teams at Mercy as employees work side by side to help those less fortunate.