One common thread across most home improvement retailers is that they understand the importance of giving back to the communities that support them. And when they give back to their communities, whether through financial assistance or other resources, they set the example for their employee, encouraging them to volunteer their time as well.
PRO Group Inc., based in Denver, has found its own unique way to model that community spirit. In addition to the hard work they do for their distributor members, PRO encourages their employees to give back to the places where they call home. PRO’s volunteer leave policy encourages employees to become involved in their children’s school activities or with charitable non-profit community service organizations by providing paid time off.
To learn more about the program, Hardware Retailing spoke with Drew Eflin, marketing manager at PRO Group, who volunteers with a non-profit that helps underprivileged youth learn how to skateboard and snowboard.
Hardware Retailing (HR): Would you tell me a little about PRO’s volunteer leave policy and how it works?
Drew Eflin (DE): PRO Group has an amazing company policy that allows employees to volunteer for the organization of their choice for 16 paid hours a year. All employees can choose a charitable organization and are given two paid days a year that they can volunteer. Many of PRO’s employee’s use this to help at their kids’ schools, but for the younger employees it’s a great opportunity to choose an organization they’re passionate about.
HR: Can you describe what you do with the Chill Foundation and how long have you been working with that program?
DE: I’ve been working with the Chill Foundation for 2 years now. Chill is a non-profit organization that takes underprivileged youth out to do different board sports and teaches them how to overcome challenges they face in their everyday life. Volunteering with Chill, I have participated in all kinds of different activities, such as getting kids sized and geared up for snowboarding/skateboarding, teaching kids the basics of snowboarding and skateboarding, being a mentor for groups of kids of different ages from ages 10-18, taking photos and videos of the programs, playing games and activities with the kids, etc.
HR: Why did you choose this foundation as a place to serve?
DE: I had heard about this program a while ago – it was founded by Jake and Donna Carpenter (founders of Burton Snowboards) and always thought it would be awesome to share some of my passions with kids who may have never even thought about snowboarding or skateboarding. A lot of the time snowboarding isn’t on the table for many underprivileged kids, so being able to go for free, and discover something new that they may really like is awesome to me. Snowboarding and skateboarding were my life growing up and being able to share it with someone who might not be able to go do these things on their own is a privilege for me!
My hope is that this is something positive they could use as an influence in their life. I grew up hanging at skateparks all summer, and hanging at a resort all winter and honestly focusing on skateboarding and snowboarding kept me out of trouble. I hope it can do the same for kids today.
HR: What are some of the other ways PRO employees use their volunteer hours?
DE: Employees from all generations and at all levels of the company participate. The organizations where they choose to spend their time range from local to national. Several people use their time to help out at their children’s schools, whether it’s helping with a high school football fundraiser or helping with an elementary school music program. Another employee joined her daughter in volunteering at the Denver Rescue Mission, setting the example for her children on the importance of giving back. Several employees volunteer at other non-profit organizations, such as the Make-A-Wish Foundation and Project Angel Heart, which delivers meals for people living with serious illnesses.
HR: Why do you think it is important that PRO offer its employees this opportunity? 9
DE: I think it is amazing that PRO offers this opportunity to its employees and it’s an amazing way to encourage employees to give back to their communities. I think it speaks to PRO as a company, and how they want to take care of their employees and give them all the benefits you might get from a bigger company, yet we’re very small. Because of this benefit, I started volunteering for this program in my free time as well, which I hadn’t really considered doing before we were offered this opportunity!