Posted by: sonewjersey | June 7, 2011

The Importance of Corporate Volunteerism

by Keith Greenberg, BlackRock

Keith Greenberg

My relationship with Special Olympics New Jersey (SONJ) dates back to my undergraduate days at The College of New Jersey (TCNJ).  I was looking for a volunteer opportunity, and I had heard of Special Olympics.  As an avid soccer fan, I decided to volunteer as a soccer referee for a Special Olympics qualifying event in Plainsboro, NJ.  As it turned out, I was a terrible referee because my attention was fixated on the extraordinary passion and enthusiasm that these athletes brought to the field.

At the time, I didn’t know what the connection was between TCNJ and SONJ.  All I knew was that every year as the campus emptied out for the summer, TCNJ was preparing to host a big Special Olympics event.  Only, I had no idea just how big that event was.  As I would later find out, that event was the annual Summer Games.

Fast forward to 2009: My career led me to the sales desk at BlackRock in the midst of the economic recession.  Companies worked desperately to find ways to engage employees and build camaraderie while morale was slipping.  Corporate volunteerism became key in keeping employees grounded during uncertain economic times.

It was this type of thinking that prompted my firm to combine team-building with volunteerism.

When my manager at that time, Joe Kogut, was looking for a meaningful team-building exercise, I told him about my experiences with Special Olympics.  After discussing it, we both knew that this would undoubtedly lead to an invaluable venture for our colleagues.

We never imagined, though, that what started as a small team event in 2009 would turn into one of the most anticipated annual volunteer events at the firm, attracting more than 100 BlackRock volunteers in New Jersey alone.

Keith volunteering at Summer Games

Now, BlackRock employees from all different departments join together once a year to help their community at the Summer Games.  This year will be the third that Joe and I will co-lead the Summer Games volunteer effort at BlackRock, in addition to a planning committee of 22 members.

The folks at Special Olympics New Jersey make it easy to become a corporate partner, and for that we are extremely grateful.  In particular, Volunteer Manager Amy Simmons has coordinated 250 BlackRock volunteers over the past three years and presented to our staff several times since 2009.  Additionally, Director of Corporate Accounts Diane Paraskevas has worked closely with our philanthropic committee to simplify the financial contributions process.  Lastly, Receptionist Cynde McClain indulges our frequent phone calls and has been a valuable resource every step of the way.

The SONJ Summer Games reminds us all of how important it is to make a difference beyond the walls of our office and in the communities in which we live and work.  After all, I think Sir Winston Churchill said it best, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

To become a corporate partner or get your company involved in volunteering, please email developmentINFO@sonj.org or call (609) 896-8000.

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