Three volunteers around a table of items for hospital patients
Marelyne Chung (front), Jessica Gindelsky (back) and Jessica Babbin (right) putting together “go bags” for Boston Children’s Hospital.
Three volunteers around a table of items for hospital patients
Marelyne Chung (front), Jessica Gindelsky (back) and Jessica Babbin (right) putting together “go bags” for Boston Children’s Hospital.

Partnerships can be powerful; a multiplying factor to accomplish something better, faster, smarter.

Recently, several groups of IBM volunteers teamed with their clients in the communications sector to perform community service projects in the United States and India.

Dubbed the Week of Impact, IBM and client volunteers in eight cities came together in late September 2019 to step out of their business roles and partner in various ways to give-back to the communities where they work.

IBM Volunteers spoke to Madeleine Barker, an IBM consultant in the communications sector, who helps coordinates activities for their Corporate Social Responsibility Squad, and the Week of Impact.

Madeleine, what is the communications sector Corporate Social Responsibility Squad?
We came up with that name in 2017—not to take anything away from IBM’s official corporate citizenship team—for a group of consultants who wanted to enable our larger team in “give back” projects. We specifically support clients in the communications sector; those in the media and entertainment, telecommunications, and energy and utilities industries. We saw an opportunity to come together within our specialty to stimulate meaningful community service and also build skills, strengthen team bonds and create and highlight positive experiences.

In the last three years, we’ve run many initiatives and the Week of Impact that just concluded is one of them.

How did the idea for the Week of Impact come about?
It began with one of our group members, Taylor Gillespie, wanting to see as many people as possible involved in give-back—which meant it needed to be flexible and focused at the same time. We established a date for the event so everyone had a target (the Week of Impact was September 16 – 20) and teams could decide for themselves what type of service project they wanted to perform with our support.

How did you spread the word?
Roger Hasson, our managing partner and general manager of the communications sector, sent an email several months in advance to the broad team. With his executive support, we then asked individual industry leads to follow-up with their teams. Along the way, the idea was born to invite our clients to join us, which really elevated the initiative.

I don’t believe the Week of Impact would have gotten off the ground if it were not for the support of our leadership team. The communications sector calls itself “The Pack” because we think of ourselves as a family. When we reached out to Roger, he and his team fully embraced the idea and enabled us to reach the audiences we needed to rally support.

Who participated in the Week of Impact?
Eight client businesses, in different cities, volunteered and joined us during the Week of Impact. In each location, an IBM volunteer leader helped coordinate the activity. Here’s a summary:

Client Location Volunteer Leader
CenturyLink Monroe, LA Marilyn Dorris
ConEdison New York City, NY Cat Kildunne
Deluxe Minneapolis, MN Marisa Dickman
Ernst & Young (EY) Hyderabad, India Muralidhar Kommanaboina
National Grid Waltham, MA Marelyne Chung
Southwest Gas Las Vegas, NV Chris Donaldson
Tampa Electric Tampa, FL Christina Albert
Veolia Newark, DE Kelsey Dick

What about the volunteers?
Each of our volunteer leaders was truly invaluable. Thank you! And we had nearly 50 IBM and client volunteers—I wish we could list them all—who worked side-by-side on the different service projects. I can’t emphasize enough how amazing each person was to give their time and talent to the projects. A huge thank you to each and every one of them.

What were the service projects?
Here’s a summary of the projects:

Hyderabad, India Teaching the value of education and providing food for
under-privileged children at a school in Kaithalapur
Las Vegas, NV Cooking for homeless at Nevada Partnership for Homeless Youth
Minneapolis, MN Blood drive for the Red Cross
Monroe, LA STEM workshop with the Baptist Children's Home
New York City, NY Online food drive
Newark, DE Collecting pantry items for Gift of Life Family House in support of
a home away from home for transplant patients and their families who
need temporary support when they travel for transplant-related care
Tampa, FL Toiletries drive
Waltham, MA Collecting donations for activity "Go" Bags for the Boston Children's Hospital

Can you tell us more about one of the projects?
All of our teams did such a wonderful job, including our volunteers at the STEM workshop in Louisiana who shared their enthusiasm about technology with a group of children.

At that event, IBM and CenturyLink joined together to engage the kids in a series of activities designed to show them that technology can be fun. From what I heard, the Tech Beats station was very successful, and each group got to build some type of bot; it was extremely successful.
Four volunteers; three of them with IBM t-shirts
Volunteers at the STEM workshop at a children’s home in Louisiana
Four volunteers; three of them with IBM t-shirts
Volunteers at the STEM workshop at a children’s home in Louisiana
One of the volunteers said that watching the children open up and become more engaged throughout the day was probably the best reward. Also, everyone, including the volunteers, enjoyed making ice cream in a bag!

All the teams are giving us a post-event summary, so we know what worked, what they enjoyed most and what we can improve on in the future. For example, from the STEM workshop, we have good input about what activities are better suited for certain age groups—we’ll use that to inform next year’s event.

Can you share some input from volunteers about their personal experiences?
I got an email from two of the IBM volunteers who worked with National Grid on the service project for Boston’s Children Hospital (BCH). Here are quotes from them.

“This event serves as a way to have a positive impact in the Boston community while bringing IBM together. I enjoyed putting the packs together knowing that someone else, on the other end, would be excited to open it despite their unfortunate circumstances.”
- Jessica Babbin, IBM business transformation consultant

“The event was a great volunteering opportunity for the IBM team to become part of BCH's mission to change the future of health for every child around the world.”
- Kuldeep Joshi, IBM application developer

What pleased you most about the week of impact?
I was truly stunned by the initiative our practitioners took to get events organized. I had people reaching out to me with slide decks of volunteer ideas and a whole team assembled to help organize just days after we approached them about doing an event. Our Ernst & Young account in India volunteered with a local school every day during the Week of Impact—essentially, they hosted four events!

Why is leading and organizing this event important to you?
Many reasons. I volunteer with an organization in my home city of Atlanta that focuses on reforestation. I love the small impact I’m able to make with each tree I plant, but the Week of Impact allowed me, as a business consultant, to use my skills and my communications sector family to reach more people and multiply that impact. The Week of Impact is the result of hard working IBMers and our clients who value giving back to their communities and who take the time to support one another.

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