Not many people can say they’ve been on both sides of corporate volunteer projects; but this month’s Spotlight is truly special. Caryn Conway has experience in the financial world, specifically in equity research, and now serves as one of Boston Cares’ Corporate Volunteer Leaders who helps organize and run corporate volunteer projects.
As a volunteer with NY Cares, Caryn was enthusiastic about joining Boston Cares when she moved back to MA in 2007. At first, she primarily volunteered at Boston Cares’ family friendly projects because her children were younger. After learning about Boston Care’s corporate volunteer programs through other volunteers, she quickly became one of Boston Cares’ most committed Corporate Volunteer Leaders (CVL). Corporate Volunteer Leaders are an essential part of the Boston Cares corporate engagement program – serving as supplemental leadership supporting staff on-site at projects.
Corporate volunteerism interests Caryn because “In my previous life, I actually was in corporate- I used to do finance…I loved the opportunity to marry the two [sides] of volunteer and corporate. I’ve worked in business and understand how corporations have their day of service…so this is just working it from the flipside.”
A typical day for Caryn will may begin with a 6am arrival at a site anywhere in MA or NH. She could be at a Boys & Girls Club outside Manchester or a school in Lowell waiting for the Boston Cares U-Haul to arrive filled with shovels, ladders, paint, brushes, rollers, and tarps. The “project prep party” as Caryn calls it is one of her favorite parts of the day where she works alongside other CVLs to set up for the busy day ahead. There’s always a sense of excited anticipation-
“I think to be a CVL or a volunteer in general, someone has to be flexible and willing to adapt or improvise whenever there’s a moment. It may be a challenge at that second but then it always comes together- needing your team- you work with your teammates in the corporate volunteer arena as well…there’s not always one answers there are sometimes multiple and I find it fun to just explore through those especially when everyone’s waking up…it’s like the prep before the party.”
Caryn and the other CVLs must have their areas set up and ready before the volunteers arrive- often in busses with matching shirts. She assists in assembling the volunteers for a kick off because her role, once the volunteers arrive, is to “help assist the corporate volunteers to get the best experience” whether that be “presenting information on the agency they’re helping or helping with the project itself or [providing] info about Boston Cares.” After the kick off, volunteers separate into groups to tackle preassigned projects. One team may build garden beds that will be used for science classes, while others might paint games such as foursquare on the school’s blacktop or run a STEM Fair for younger students.
Corporate volunteering offers a unique way for companies to engage with their community. “…even if it’s a person that’s not typically aware of how you can volunteer in the area-it can open their eyes to what is out there and different ways they can give back even if they think they don’t have time and there’s an agency that will help them.” In her role as CVL, Caryn feels that she is able to introduce individuals to a different world of volunteering while helping companies strengthen their employee relations. Caryn recognizes that days of service enable “teambuilding in a different arena,” specifically one that is different from everyday life as coworkers may excel or gain knowledge in areas far removed from the workforce. She notes that companies try to foster a stronger sense of community when engaging in company outings and that Boston Cares’ service opportunities “let employees team build while feeling they are contributing to something where they can give back to the community.”
When asked about her favorite projects, Caryn shared that she enjoyed the variety of opportunities available. Projects are tailored to the size of the volunteer group as well as the company’s desired impact area. Every experience is tailored to the company’s unique needs, and offers CVLs an engaging, hands-on, leadership opportunity serving the community as well as an opportunity to network with local companies. She used one particular project to show this diversity. “It [the project] was a true event where [the company was] entertaining clients…the project had a very different feel. There were waiters and tablecloths…” Caryn contrasted this type of individualized experience to other more hands-on opportunities. “[T]hen there’s the flipside, when you’re working in gardening beds in Cambridge and when you’re planting, carrying dirt and creating compost piles, getting to see the different stages of the project- I like them all and I like the variety.”
Interested in becoming a Corporate Volunteer Leader? Boston Cares is gearing up for a busy fall, and currently training new leaders to serve on an hourly, flexible basis. For more information on duties, compensation and how to apply, visit https://www.bostoncares.org/corpvl