NIPSCO employees stopped by Opportunity Enterprises (OE) in Valpo on Wednesday, August 31 to volunteer their time and help clean the inside and outside of OE’s vehicles.
OE is a nonprofit organization that serves those with developmental disabilities to help them live life to their best potential. Community integration is a major part of helping these individuals have fulfilling lives, which is made possible through OE’s bus and vehicle transportation system.
“It's a way for our clients to have their community, but at the same time, interact with people everyday outside of the OE family, so a lot of those vehicles are used for that,” said OE Development Director Alison Martin.
In addition to transporting people to-and-from places such as the grocery store, doctor’s appointments, and other places in the community, the vehicles also provide transportation for OE’s group homes that offer supported living. No matter the case, these vehicles get used quite often, and upkeep can sometimes be a challenge for the small facilities’ staff with many priorities on their plates. This is where NIPSCO came in as the team stepped up to help with the cleaning of the vehicles for the facilities staff.
“It's pretty simple and sometimes we kind of overcomplicate volunteerism – it's really about sometimes ‘I just need some able bodies and willing bodies,’” said NIPSCO President Mike Hooper. “One of the things that we had the opportunity to do, after talking with them, was that they said ‘Hey, it'd be great if you could muster up some folks to come out and just help us give the inside and the exterior of our fleet a good clean up.’ It's like when you get your automobile cleaned up, right, you just have a better attitude when you get in.”
The event is a part of NIPSCO’s Charity of Choice Campaign, where employees get involved with different organizations and give back to their communities across Northern Indiana. This program has been in place for over a decade, raising several million dollars and contributions over the years for a variety of organizations including The American Heart Association, Boys & Girls Clubs, veterans interests, autism-related support services, and others.
“We just have to have a strong back and we'll do it, and this is a good opportunity for us to do that,” said Hooper. “Then when the OE folks get in, the best part will be the smile on their face when they get in that clean van.”
Seeing the heartwarming feedback is what Hooper enjoys most about giving back to the community, especially when that feedback for many is long overdue.
“My favorite thing is seeing the smiles on the faces of these folks, who many times work tirelessly, and sometimes thanklessly with these organizations,” Hooper said. “Sometimes, just that helping hand and knowing that somebody recognizes the work that they're doing and they're willing to give a little bit of their sweat equity to help them out is that core feeling that we're after.”
Giving back also gives a positive boost to the team morale, and Hooper is thankful for the opportunity to lead a company that has these opportunities available.
“The other piece is the fact that we're very fortunate as a company and as employees to have good jobs that we can go to every day and serve customers every day and the opportunity for us to get out and give a little bit about a little bit of that time and effort back as well as the dollars we give back to our community. Then out of that, I see internally in my organization, how the culture builds on the culture of giving and sharing, and collaboration. This is collaboration, what you see here today – it's folks working together, getting to know each other better if they don't already, and that's really what the beauty of it is.”
This isn’t the first time NIPSCO and OE have worked together; however – the two have been longtime partners, and that relationship is how the cleaning event came to be. NIPSCO employees have been working and volunteering at OE in many different capacities over the years, so when it came time for the electric and gas company to choose an organization to work with for the charity campaign, NIPSCO knew just who to call.
“We work well with a lot of their staff and they have so many different divisions, and many of those divisions that call us up and they want to do something. They reached out to us because we've been such good partners with them all along,” said Martin.
NIPSCO employees have always enjoyed volunteering their time, and the staff at OE has always been grateful for the help the company is always ready to offer the team.
“There is no greater gift in the world than the gift of someone’s time,” said OE President and CEO Neil Samahon. “When time and attention are given, it is letting so many people know that they are cared for and that they matter. NIPSCO’s attention to volunteer services is remarkable. NIPSCO, and its different divisions of employees, reach out to us frequently to support our mission of maximizing self-sufficiency and enriching the quality of life for individuals with disabilities. The time of others is so valuable to OE – and we are very thankful for the giving nature of NIPSCO and its workforce.”
In addition to its Charity of Choice Campaign, NIPSCO employees can be found volunteering their time year-round. The company also hosts a Home for the Holidays Campaign around Christmastime, where they hand out toys and work with Toys for Tots, and volunteer with several organizations that provide holiday support for kids, the elderly, and those in need.