COVID-19 has changed just about everything about everyday life – including how people volunteer.
But 3Mers across the globe are showing that community involvement doesn’t stop in times of crisis.
Instead, they’re masking up and taking proper precautions to continue making a positive difference where it’s needed most
Storing up support in Saint Paul, MN
As a result of the unrest in the Twin Cities following the death of George Floyd, many retailers and grocery stores in parts of the metro were closed indefinitely – meaning some city residents didn’t have a place nearby to buy groceries and other essential items.
Community members mobilized to meet this need, including Rachelle McCord, CSD global market intelligence manager.
McCord joined a group of around 100 volunteers in the Midway area of Saint Paul to receive, organize and distribute donations.
“The demand was high, but the supply of donations was even higher,” McCord recalled.
Distribution would continue into the following days, and McCord overheard one of the organizers scrambling to figure out where the donations could be stored.
“I called on 3Mgives and our African American Network Executive Sponsor Steve Shafer, who immediately stepped to the plate and offered up a team that could help us secure storage containers so that the good work in the community could continue on,” McCord said. “What stood out to me most in this experience was the level of demand, the eagerness of the donors, and the spirit of the volunteers to jump in, figure it out and make it happen.”
Teaching students to sign in Brazil
Josi Cruz, sales service specialist for Marketing Services & Customer Operations, spends her free time teaching LIBRAS, or Brazilian sign language, via Microsoft Teams to 16 students who are in a professional development program for low-income youth.
Because LIBRAS is the second official language in Brazil, Cruz said it is important that residents know how to sign.
“Currently, we have 10 million deaf people in Brazil, and most don’t speak Portuguese,” she explained. “I love sharing LIBRAS and seeing the curiosity my students have in learning about relationships and making conversation. They really put themselves in the shoes of deaf people.”
Welcoming the helpers
When Tropical Storm Isaias brought rain, flooding and damaging winds to the East Coast on August fourth, more than 970,000 electrical customers in New Jersey lost power. Just days after the storm, our 3M Flemington, NJ, plant became a hub of activity for a power company working to restore power to the region.
“Our site is listed as a FEMA staging area and was last used in 2012 after Hurricane Sandy,” said Sam Becher, plant manager. “After this tropical storm, [power company] FirstEnergy called to see if they could use our site as a staging area again.” Now the six-acres of parking space around the plant are filled with boom trucks, a dining hall, laundry facilities and sleeping quarters for up to 600 workers.
“We have a lot of employees who lost power, some who still don’t have power,” he said. “We’re doing what we can to help out.”
Giving the gift of communication in Ireland
Because of her work in health care, Susan McGloin, regional clinical specialist, was very aware of the isolation older members of her community were experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, when her children’s Gaelic Athletic Association club wanted to do something to support the larger community, they decided to launch a fundraising event to enable the purchase of tablets and high-speed Wi-Fi for each unit at a local hospital. This way, patients could video call with their loved ones.
“We challenged people to walk or run the number of miles between our local club to New York City and back, and each day participants would log their miles and make a donation. The fundraiser was a fantastic success – we completed the miles in under three weeks and donated four tablets with Wi-Fi to the Director of Nursing at the hospital,” McGloin said. “We have been delighted to hear that this initiative has made unforeseen improvements in quality of life for these patients. For example, one patient’s only son lives in China. She hadn’t seen him in over a year, and now, she’s able to see and speak to him a few times a week. I’m so proud of the generosity of our community both in time and donations.”
Translating letters to support student-sponsor connections across the Americas
Common Hope, a nonprofit dedicated to using education to fight poverty in Guatemala, relies on volunteers to help translate thousands of letters a year between students in Guatemala and their sponsors, who are primarily located in the US.
In July, 3M’s Latino Resource Network (LRN) partnered with Common Hope for the single largest translation event in the nonprofit’s history – 500 letters translated from Spanish to English in just one week.
According to Alejandro Rothschuh, U.S. activation marketing manager for 3M Food Safety and one of the event organizers, the LRN was initially hesitant about the scope of the challenge. They would need a minimum of 50 volunteers to translate 10 letters each.
But the positive response was overwhelming – more than 340 3Mers and their families from all over Latin America and the United States volunteered to help.
“It is truly inspiring to work in an organization full of people that are willing to take time out of their day to volunteer in benefit of Latinos around the world,” Rothschuh said.
For 3M volunteers, the experience brought home the power of cross-cultural connection.
“Just knowing that you are able to connect or be a bridge between two people that would not normally be able to communicate is really satisfying,” said Misty Lever, talent acquisition coordinator for LA Manufacturing & Supply Chain, based in Panama. “I have previously worked as an online interpreter, so I understand the value of being able to be understood.”
Sharing science with students in China
In 2019, 3M China launched the Scitopia student program to arouse children’s curiosity in science. Children ages 6-12 are invited to join 3M scientists in scientific lectures, hands-on experiments and contests during summer vacation.
In 2019, more than 500 children participated in Scitopia; in 2020, the program’s volunteers are expecting to attract more than 5,000 children over the span of the year to learn more about 3M science while maintaining proper pandemic safety procedures.
Demi Le, manager, Corporate Affairs, is a volunteer for the Scitopia program and encourages other employees to leverage their expertise as a volunteer.
“After signing up to be a volunteer, we help employees identify which role, such as teacher, tour guide or experiment assistant, best suits them,” she said. “I’m glad to help build a bridge between children who want to learn and volunteers who can help them get close to cutting-edge science and technology, and encourage them to research, explore and discover.”
Nourishing people and animals in the UAE
Dubai’s government worked with a local food delivery company during Ramadan to prepare and deliver food to residents while keeping COVID-19 guidelines in place.
They prepared three different combinations for affordable prices and delivered them to people in need.
So Neslisah Kocademir Sorkun, planning specialist, Health Care Business Group, has been donating money to that organization and food to animals living in shelters.
“There’s nothing more meaningful than knowing you make someone happy. Even the smallest contribution can make a huge impact on someone’s life,” Sorkun said. “We need to help each other until no one goes to bed hungry.”
Cleaning up community spaces in Saint Paul, MN
This spring, the Environmental, Health, Safety & Product Stewardship and Sustainability groups, along with family members, safely conducted a garbage clean-up of Battle Creek Regional Park, located about five minutes south of 3M global headquarters.
Prior to the event, the volunteers worked with local parks and public health departments to create a detailed work plan, training session and COVID-19 safety protocols. Through the event, the group demonstrated how social distancing, personal hygiene, enhanced cleaning and self-observation could be done effectively and while following local safety protocols in a coordinated community event and have a positive impact on the community.
“Over 40 volunteers participated, totaling over 80 volunteer hours and picking up over 23 full garbage bags,” said Kurt Prieve, senior safety engineer, Global Research & Development and Environment, Health and Safety. “Several community members using the trails/parks at the time of clean-up gave quick shout outs and said thank you to us, and it was wonderful to know that the work was valued and appreciated.”