Supporting charity, improving workers’ communities

By Richard Asinof
Contributing Writer
What makes Amgen Inc. a leader in community involvement and volunteerism is its core values in creating a holistic work/life balance, according to Bill Flaherty, a database administrator who has worked at the biomanufacturing facility in West Greenwich for 10 years. More

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Supporting charity, improving workers’ communities

COURTESY AL WEEMS
MAKING IT RIGHT: Amgen has participated in the International Coastal Cleanup the past two years in coordination with the Audubon Society of Rhode Island. Last, year Rebecca Cabral and husband, Jason (who is not an Amgen staffer), took part in the cleanup at the Charlestown Breachway.
By Richard Asinof
Contributing Writer
Posted 12/17/12

What makes Amgen Inc. a leader in community involvement and volunteerism is its core values in creating a holistic work/life balance, according to Bill Flaherty, a database administrator who has worked at the biomanufacturing facility in West Greenwich for 10 years.

“Amgen really values creating a work/life balance, promoting opportunities to be with your family and to work in the community and not be holed up all the time at work,” Flaherty said.

For Flaherty, that has meant Amgen’s support for his work in the community of South Providence, creating a nonprofit organization, Providence Sports and Leadership, a mentoring program for student athletes, serving the largely Hispanic neighborhood.

“Over the last four years,” Flaherty said, “we’ve been very active in getting the kids into college. We’ve had a 90 percent success rate in terms of going to college and staying in college.”

The program focused initially on baseball, with plans to expand into basketball. The program, which works in partnership with the Providence Department of Parks and Recreation, has mentored more than 130 teens ages 13-18, according to Flaherty.

“One of our kids was Division III Player of the Year at Wheaton College, another was signed by the [New York] Yankees last summer,” he said proudly.

Flaherty’s volunteer efforts are part of a companywide program, Amgen Volunteers, an initiative that encourages staff members to seek out local volunteer opportunities, and offers the tools to help them find ways to serve.

Amgen’s intranet portal includes the Amgen Volunteers website, powered by VolunteerMatch, an online network linking nonprofits and volunteers. Staff can quickly and easily find volunteer opportunities by location, interest or date range.

Amgen also provides financial support for organizations that are nearest and dearest to employees’ hearts. To every agency at which an employee has volunteered for 15 hours, Amgen makes a service grant of $500, with additional grants for more volunteer time, up to $2,000 a year, according to Christina Evon, the company’s senior associate in global communications and philanthropy. She said it’s all about providing positive reinforcement to communities by offering more than jobs and industry.

“The goal is to strengthen communities where Amgen’s staff live and work,” Evon said. Staff members feel empowered donating their time and talent to the causes for which they feel passionate about, with company support and assistance.

By putting in more time or donations, volunteers can earn substantial monetary support for worthy nonprofit organizations, according to Evon, putting them in the driver’s seat.

Amgen matches individual staff members’ donations of $50 or more for eligible charitable organizations, resulting in tens of thousands of dollars in support in 2011.

Amgen volunteers have served others in their community in a variety of ways. They have helped to clean up Rhode Island’s coastline, built new playgrounds, and cooked and served dinner for residents at the Ronald McDonald House. Employees also have regularly turned out at numerous activities and events that are part of longstanding partnerships:

• Volunteers participate in the Arthritis Foundation’s annual Arthritis Walk to raise funds to find a cure and generate prevention awareness. As many as 75 staff members, their family and friends have participated in a given year.

• Volunteers serve as track clerks at the Special Olympics Rhode Island State Summer Games. As many as 35 staff members, their family and friends have participated in a given year.

• Volunteers serve as career speakers for middle- and high-school students as part of College Crusade’s career workshops. Five to six Amgen staff members volunteer each year.

• Volunteers assist WaterFire Providence’s Gloria Gemma Flames of Hope event by helping to build fires, set up reception areas and serve on the wood boat crew, along with other tasks.

• From 2006 through 2009, Amgen was the title sponsor for the Rhode Island Science and Engineering Fair. During that time, more than 50 Amgen volunteers helped to set up the event, ensure student projects met with safety requirements, and serve as project judges.

• Volunteers served as judges at the annual Meeting Street Science Fair. Meeting Street, in Providence, offers therapeutic and educational services to children.

Erin Tetrault, a senior manager of business performance at Amgen, recently won an Amgen Excellence in Volunteering award for her work as a co-founder of Friends of Julie Fund, a nonprofit providing parents diagnosed with late-stage cancer and their children with memory-making experiences.

Her effort was the result of her late friend Julie’s experiences with late-stage cancer and trying to provide her daughter with positive memories. Amgen’s support of Tetrault’s volunteer efforts – as well as Amgen’s financial contributions – have been a critical component of the group’s success.

Tetrault praised the support she has received from Amgen.

“It’s an amazing thing that they do,” she said. “I don’t know of any other workplaces that would be so supportive. I really appreciate it. In so many ways, it makes you feel good about yourself.”

Amgen’s recognition of Tetrault’s efforts as well as the company’s philanthropic support has had a big impact on the Friends of Julie Fund. “Giving volunteers the credit they deserve while monetarily benefiting the organization they care so much about is an awesome way to spotlight the importance of volunteering and the impact it has on organizations,” said Mark Porzio, president and co-founder of the Friends of Julie Fund. “Thanks to Amgen, as many as five parents with late-stage cancer and their children will be able to take a break from the emotionally and physically draining atmosphere of the cancer treatment world to make lasting memories.”

For Carol Holmquist, the president and CEO of Dorcas Place Adult and Family Learning Center in Providence, Amgen volunteers in the organization’s workforce training programs have been an important element of its success. The Amgen volunteers serve as a team that conducts mock interviews for the students as prospective job seekers. The training tracks include hospitality, IT and health care. Over the last year, more than 120 students have participated in the mock interviews with 35 to 40 Amgen volunteers, taking the students “one step closer toward realizing their employment goals,” according to Holmquist.

Holmquist praised the commitment of the Amgen volunteers. “This kind of dedication is rare,” she said. •

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