Volunteerism, more valuable than money
Glenda Lucia wants people to know there are more ways to donate to nonprofit organizations than just money. She wants to spotlight the two year anniversary of a group of volunteers at St. Mary’s Soup Kitchen that is held every Wednesday.
“If it wasn’t for them, we would be having packaged cookies and cakes for dessert,” she said. Lucia is referring to a dedicated team of volunteers from Orange Savings Bank in Orange.
Two years ago, Bank President Stephen Lee challenged his employees to get more involved in the community. Employees were divided into teams and each was to pick a project of community service for a year. When the year was up for the volunteers at St. Mary’s soup kitchen, they had so much fun they decided to continue and this week are celebrating their second anniversary with the organization.
“I love being around people. I love helping people. I just love being a part of things,” said Trissa Vickers a member of the Orange Branch. “I usually go and serve at least once or twice a month.”
Jo Gilbeaux coordinates the volunteers at the bank, “We’ve not missed a Wednesday in two years of having at least two people there, sometimes having three or four people there. When I send my calendar out, the volunteers just fill it up. We try to send at least two people and at least two desserts every week and so far we have not missed a Wednesday. Gilbeaux said, “They actually give up their lunch, usually we try to be down there at 11:15 and we try to be back by 12:15-12:30.”
Kay Faulk is known as the cake lady at the shelter. “Everyone asks for Ms. Kay’s cakes,” said Lucia. She puts a little extra love in her baking and the clients really appreciate it according to Lucia.
They have a box for food collections in the bank lobby called ‘Gallon of Love,’ because the soup kitchen likes to get their food in gallons because it goes further. Gilbeaux said it usually takes four gallon cans to make one side dish each Wednesday. “It goes pretty fast.”
“We started before Thanksgiving and left our box out until January. Then it kinda died down and we took it away. We put it back out now cause with summer; they’re serving a lot more people with kids being out of school…so we thought maybe it would be a good time to collect again for their pantry.”
Dana Travis, the Mauriceville branch manager brought gallon cans of vegetables to the bank Tuesday. “We’re a little bit further out, so we try to help with the donations. We gather them up and bring them over here so they can be delivered to the soup kitchen.” Travis said occasionally some of her employees serve and one employee, Natalie, serves frequently. “She comes out quite often and volunteers.”
Gilbeaux said, “I think it is really important to note that it really doesn’t take much on the part of an employer to encourage their employees to be involved in the community and that’s what Mr. Lee did for us.” She continued, “He really kind of challenged us at that point two years ago, to really get involved in the community. Customer service doesn’t stop at lunch or where we go.”
Nancy Vincent said, “He wanted all his employees from down to the bottom to the top to be involved and find some things we were interested in doing. We’ve always been community involved, but not to the level that we are now, when he challenged all the employees to involved in some way. “
She said the soup kitchen is the most ongoing project, but their community involvement goes beyond that
“It just doesn’t take away from the bank or customer service at all, so it doesn’t take much for an employer to encourage involvement,” said Vincent.
Orange Savings Bank is actively involved with various organizations such as Habitat for Humanity, Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce, United Way, West Orange Stark Education Foundation, Little Cypress Mauriceville Education Foundation, Junior Achievement, CASA, Hospice, Lions Club Carnival and Texas Adopt a Road program just to name a few.
They are always seeking ways to give back to the community whether it is helping with financial literacy at local schools or informing the elderly about Identity Theft at the Heritage House and Palm Gardens’ facility.
Vincent said some of the projects they are involved in are on an annual basis such as the Lions Club Carnival. They man the fish toss booth. “It’s a very challenging booth,” said Vincent. “It’s a busy booth. The only good thing is, it normally involves little kids and it closes before the bigger rides for the bigger kids.” She said they get to close at 10 p.m. instead of midnight.
“I think in every Habitat house we have done something on, from hang siding, to insulation.” Vincent said she has to wait until they get to a part that can use her “unskilled” labor.
They have members on the board of United Way. “We run a pretty successful in-house campaign we have increased our donation every year,” said Vincent.
She said the bank also provides teachers for the Junior Achievement program
Orange Savings Bank mission is “Creating extraordinary value for our community and shareholders by building lifelong relationships and making the difference in the lives of everyone we serve.”
Gilbeaux said Lee is leading and living that mission by example. Lee’s entire family has worked at the soup kitchen. He is teaching his boys the importance of volunteering in the community.
Lucia hopes others will take note and find ways to contribute to area organizations in more ways than just money.
“It’s been such a blessing to all of us,” said Gilbeaux.
Photo: Volunteers from Orange Savings Bank pose with their “Gallon of Love” collection box. Front left to right: Haley Lee, Darlyne Wernerg and Brandi Hammock. Back: Jo Gilbeaux, Cassie Jones, Julie Sandifer, Dana Travis (Mauriceville mgr.), Janet McCoy and Trissa Vickers. Not Pictured: Stephanie Smith, Nolan Thornal and Kay Faulk. RECORD PHOTO: Penny LeLeux