Monday, November 12, 2001

Corporate volunteerism on rise

Staffers take 'day off' to work

By John Eckberg
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Friday morning, only hours after President Bush called upon Americans for a renewed commitment to volunteerism, the Ohio Valley office of Ernst & Young was already at it. About 70 staffers from the professional services organization traded their calculators and computers for paint brushes and leaf bags.

        They came to the Anna Louise Residence Inn for Women downtown for a full day of cleaning the grounds, sorting clothing and painting bedrooms and bathrooms at the temporary-housing facility.

        “As a firm, we pride ourselves on being innovative, and this project allows us to give back to the community as well as bring our people together in a collegial way,” said a paint-spattered David Hughes, area managing partner for the Ohio Valley, which includes Columbus, Dayton, Indianapolis and Louisville.

        “We see this as a chance to make a significant investment in a good cause.”

        Ernst & Young staffers painted 15 bedrooms and five bathrooms Friday. They also removed leaves from planting beds at the century-old building on Lytle Park and filled a room with sorted donated clothing.

        The paint was donated by Home Depot while supplies such as rollers and brushes were brought from home by Ernst & Young employees.

        Initiatives like this are nothing new to many companies. Even before Sept. 11, corporate giving was on the increase in America.

        In 2000, corporate giving increased an estimated 12.1 percent compared to 1999, according to Giving USA, a publication from the American Association of Fundraising Counsel.

        Product or service donations are not tracked by the group.

        Total giving by corporations was $10.86 billion in 2000, according to the non-profit association.

        It is probably impossible to put paint brushes and rollers in the hands of tax and business professionals and avoid any high jinks.

        Some of the Ernst & Young staffers had bright swooshes of paint on their clothing and even faces to prove it.

        Pleasant Ridge resident Todd Immell, a 30-year-old tax consultant and manager at Ernst & Young, usually spends his Friday afternoons buried in tax law and memorandums.

        Instead, his hands were full of paint and there was plenty on his clothing too. “I don't usually wear my mistakes,” he said.


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