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Auto/Mate has been recognized for six years in a row as a "Best Place to Work" by the Albany Business Review and four years in a row as a "Top Workplace" by the Times-Union. One of the perks Auto/Mate offers is eight hours of paid volunteer time to every employee. To encourage employees to use the time and get involved in the community, Auto/Mate organizes groups to identify and participate in local charities.
Ronald McDonald House
Kelly Shaw, a payroll benefits specialist with Auto/Mate, discovered the Ronald McDonald House when her own child was in the hospital. "I started making small dinners, or cookies and cakes, and dropping them off at the hospital," Shaw said. "When I realized that some of the parents were from out of town and were staying at the Ronald McDonald House, I started bringing food over there."
Shaw's involvement with the charity grew and her manager at Auto/Mate encouraged her to get fellow employees involved. When Shaw posted flyers asking for volunteers to cook breakfast at the Ronald McDonald House, the response was overwhelming. "I was surprised how many people wanted to participate," she said.
Now, every other month a group of volunteers from Auto/Mate cook breakfast for the 15 to 25 guests staying at the Ronald McDonald House.
Regional Food Bank
Auto/Mate also organizes volunteers to visit the regional food bank on a regular basis. The regional food bank collects, sorts and distributes food to local food banks that deliver the food to those in need. Volunteers spend their time sorting food into different boxes, checking for recalled items and cleaning and packaging everything so it's in good condition.
Local Animal Shelter
Auto/Mate routinely holds "pet drives" and donates items to a local animal shelter. Employees bring in everything from blankets to towels, pet food, kitty litter and toys.
Every year around the holidays, Auto/Mate and its employees "adopt" several local families and a senior in need. The families' wish lists are assigned to teams who go out and do the shopping. Then all employees are invited to participate in wrapping the gifts. "We make it into an event, with Christmas music and a catered lunch so that people really get into the spirit," said Shaw.
These are just some of the causes that Auto/Mate volunteers have become passionate about. For companies that want to encourage employee involvement in their communities, Shaw makes the following recommendations:
"Nearly everyone has been touched by something; whether it's a loved one that has fought cancer, or been stricken with Alzheimer's, or is a veteran," said Shaw. "Any time an employee is directly affected by a cause, it inspires co-workers that much more, and helps to foster that feeling that we're all family."