Each year, Benesch’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) team coordinates a company-wide food drive competition. The weeklong event has grown steadily since its inception, from approximately 4,500 items collected in 2013 to more than 19,000 collected last year. In 2020, as social distancing requirements and other local restrictions threatened to put a damper on what is traditionally a collaborative—and interactive—competition, Benesch CSR Chair Greg Stewart and his team once again found themselves reporting good news: not only had the firm’s employees broken another record—they shattered it.
“It was extremely heartening to close out the week the way we did,” Stewart said. “Each year we experience incremental growth in participation and total items collected, but given this year’s circumstances, we were blown away by the final tally.”
The competition began on Monday, November 16. By Friday afternoon a combined total of 33,493 items had been collected across 29 of the firm’s office locations, surpassing the previous donation record by nearly 15,000 items.
Some offices went the extra mile to coordinate shopping and delivery activities in ways that maintained safe social distancing practices, while others reached out to local food banks so employees could make direct donations and record their receipts as part of the final count. No matter the situation, everyone involved agreed—2020 was a year worth stepping up for.
“We always have a pretty big turnout in our office for the food drive,” said Benesch Project Manager Jennifer Kowalonek, who helped coordinate a grocery order in Pottsville, PA. “Even though we had to take less people with us for the shopping trip, the enthusiasm to donate stayed high—we ended up filling six vehicles with donatable items!”
For some locations, such as the Chicago office, coordinating individual donations paved the way to victory during the competition.
“Each year employees are able to make cash donations to the food bank of their choice and count each dollar as two items toward the final count,” explained Project Assistant and CSR member Morgan Massaro. “Because so many of us are working remotely, there was a larger effort to engage everyone and keep the competition top of mind throughout the week—but it felt hardly necessary: our office had contributed more than $1,500 by Monday afternoon!”
Cash donations made throughout the week have the potential to go even further, as Benesch employees can take advantage of the firm’s gift matching program—another employee-developed CSR initiative established several years ago.
“I really do believe that giving back is an intrinsic part of who we are at Benesch,” said Stewart. “It’s why we love our work as planners, engineers, architects, designers—we want to improve communities and make life better for our neighbors.”
The winning offices in the competition—Chicago for total items collected (6,050) and Nashville for average number of items per employee (265)—will forego the company’s traditional in-office pizza party prize this year. Instead, they will have a hand in selecting three non-profit organizations for the firm’s end-of-year charitable donations in December.