How Katy Martin at Home Chef built a virtual volunteer program for Martin Luther King, Jr. Week.
The COVID pandemic reshaped nearly every experience in the workplace. Home Chef’s Day of Service was no different. Building a volunteer program that would truly make an impact was a tough challenge in a work-from-home world.
Read on, and I'll show you how I developed a virtual Day of Service program to enable our remote employees to give back to communities in need, step-by-step.
At Home Chef, my role is a bit of a catch-all. On paper, my responsibility is to look after our company's morale and organizational health, but I wear many hats.
The versatility of my role is something that I genuinely enjoy. I build learning and development programs, promote inclusivity across our functions, and lead the LGBTQ+ employee resource group. When our company reacted to the murder of George Floyd, I was tasked with sending donations to organizations that impact the lives of Black individuals in America.
I also lead Home Chef’s “Day of Service.”
When I envision volunteering, I smell soup kitchens, I picture the hustle and bustle of assembly lines packaging PB&Js, and I recall spending hours doing something I felt good about.
In 2019, the Home Chef team packaged over 500 meals for The Night Ministry, an organization that provides meals and healthcare to homeless individuals in Chicago, with a focus on queer and trans homeless individuals.
One of the core ingredients of the Home Chef team is being a humble team player. Home Chef’s mission is to bring people together to share a meal around the table. In the same vein, we acknowledge that not everyone has that opportunity to sit at a table and enjoy a warm, home-cooked meal. Recognizing this, we’ve volunteered with The Night Ministry and Greater Chicago Food Depository, plus we’ve partnered with Feeding America to donate meals. We invite our customers to do the same.
In July 2020, I began to plan another Day of Service for our team. But given the unique circumstances, I knew this year’s program wouldn’t look the same. Um... organizing our team of 400 to volunteer in soup kitchens... in a pandemic? That wasn’t going to work.
My main goal was to support communities of color. The country was in the midst of a major reckoning with the inequality that Black individuals face, and as a result, our company had committed to making systemic changes from the inside out. With social distancing guidelines and Home Chef’s commitment to keeping employee health top of mind, my second goal was to enable our people to make an impact while remote.
After some early research checking in with our employee resource groups and fellow people operations leaders turned up nothing, I eventually stumbled into a handful of companies dedicated to orchestrating this type of thing... who knew?!
Visit.org had some interesting points that mattered to me. For one, one of their founders is a woman. The organization grasped our goals right away, and they had existing partnerships with Chicago area nonprofits. It was a great match.
Measuring our impact was possible thanks to visit.org’s use of measuring each activity and how it relates to the Sustainable Development Goals. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted in 2015 by all 193 Member States of the United Nations. These goals lay out a path for the next 15 years to end extreme poverty, fight inequality and injustice, and protect our planet.
For each participant who registered, the nonprofit received a donation from Home Chef in the form of a participant fee.
The response was phenomenal. Our most popular volunteer engagement was "How Waste Management Impacts Communities of Color," in which we learned about the importance of waste management and the vital work of keeping our natural resources and our communities free of hazardous waste. We discovered how essential the waste management and sanitation workers of our communities truly are. We realized the impact that proper recycling and composting can have on our world.
I look forward to the day that our team can be in a room and package up wellness kits for individuals transitioning out of homeless shelters. I'm eager to continue to make an impact on our communities who need us most. I hope this guide has helped you to discover how you can scale your impact and enable your team to remotely volunteer.