Man planting in a community garden

The Gerent Family Pursues VTO Opportunities

According to the Society for Human Resource Management, just 21% of companies offer volunteer time off, or VTO — but for those of us at Gerent, allowing team members to take time off work to give back to their communities was a no-brainer. Giving back is an integral part of our company values and culture; as our founder Gopi Ramieni puts it, “humanity’s greatest strength is its capacity for compassion. We know that while a single person can make a difference, a community can change the world.”

To that end, we take steps to make giving easy, intuitive, and inspiring for our employees. For example, Gerent’s charitable arm, Gerent Gives, partners with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to “adopt” an endangered animal in every employee’s name on their birthday. Employees can select an animal for Gerent to support on their behalf every year and receive a plushie version of their pick for posterity.  

Through Gerent Gives, our company has donated thousands of dollars to organizations that further our six philanthropic pillars: safeguarding water, supporting disaster recovery, abolishing hunger and poverty, advancing global health and wellness, and increasing worldwide access to quality education. However, we recognize that our employees care deeply about causes beyond those categories — and to the end, we provide two paid volunteer time off days per year to every team member. 

We know that our employees have taken full advantage of the policy to contribute to the causes they hold dear — which is why, on January 16 and in honor of the National Day of Service, Gerent’s Sustainability @ Work Podcast debuted a special episode dedicated to giving back. The episode, hosted by Gerent’s own Jeff Stormer, featured four Gerent employees who have taken advantage of the company’s VTO policy.

“I love making this podcast, and this episode was a clear example of why,” Stormer said. “Hearing everyone’s stories, and getting to learn about all the different ways they gave back, was absolutely inspiring to me. I could feel the passion and pride in their voices, and the pride they took in being able to give back and make a difference. It blew me away, and I’m so grateful to have gotten to share their stories.”

The episode allowed Gerent employees to inform listeners about the causes for which they care deeply about, and considered not only the importance of giving, but the impact it can have on our lives. 

Gerent employees give back

Our employees’ stories were remarkably diverse, but all were equally profound and meaningful in their own unique ways.

Lisa French, a Senior Business Analyst at Gerent, is the first voice featured in the podcast episode. This Christmas, she and her husband donated 32 turkeys to families in need. French says she knows firsthand how difficult the holiday season can be when facing financial hardship; when her own children were little, she had to put their Christmas presents on layaway because she couldn’t afford to pay for them upfront. She clearly remembers the day she went to pay off the gifts and found out an anonymous stranger had already paid for them.

The act of kindness brought tears to her eyes, French said. “I promised right then and there I was going to do this someday– I was going to pay it forward. I learned that day, and every day since we have given back, everybody goes through things and has times when they need a little help. And if I give a little bit of myself and can bring somebody else the feeling I had when I was able to give my child that great Christmas, I want to be part of that.”

Another team member, Senior Project Manager LaKeisha Riley Burton, started a charity in memory of her son, Levi. The Levi J. Burton Foundation provides keepsakes and support for families impacted by infant and child loss. Not only does Burton's charity help families dealing with unimaginable tragedy, but it also helps her through her own grieving process.

"I may not be able to reach the whole world, the whole nation, but we are making a difference in every life that we touch," Burton said. "When we talk about paying it forward, there's touching the lives of the people we help, but that's only part of the equation. There's also ensuring that we pass that understanding of the value of giving on to the next generation and model that sense of charity for the children in our lives, showing them you know how this can impact another individual's life in a very positive way."

Tune into the full episode by checking out Sustainability @ Work

If you are interested in learning about opportunities to give back to your community, are in search of some inspiration, or are looking for brands to support, give our Sustainability @ Work podcast a listen! You can also visit our Gerent Gives website to learn more about how we give back to the global community as an organization.

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