Aptean ACARE: A Company Dedicated to Service

November 27, 2019

Posted by Ali Coad

Community Involvement, Employee Experience

 

One of Aptean’s cultural focuses is on community awareness and responsibility. As part of this effort, we have a full philanthropic committee dedicated to this initiative called ACARE. In support of Aptean’s core values, ACARE promotes commitment, service and growth both inside and outside our company walls. While ACARE organizes and sponsors events year-round, one of the busiest times of the year is around the holiday season, and I wanted to take time to highlight some of the ways we’re giving back.

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jessica Salem, the North American regional chair, and Kara McClain, Alpharetta ACARE lead, to chat in a bit more detail about Aptean’s philanthropic efforts. Turns out, Aptean is a company that’s dedicated to service, and it’s a valuable part of what makes Aptean, well, Aptean.

AC: Let’s start from the beginning. Tell me a little bit about ACARE.

JS: ACARE is a group of socially conscious Aptean employees who work with organizations in our local communities that our employees feel particularly passionate about.

KM: Everyone who’s involved in ACARE wants to help their community, support those who may need something that we’re in a position to offer—whether that be time, money, resources, experience.

AC: Do we have a hand in selecting the organizations with whom we partner?

JS: We’ve had longstanding partnerships with specific organizations, but there are also new ones we’ve partnered with as recently as this year. And these partnerships have been really great. This year alone in our Alpharetta office, we’ve joined forces with two new non-profits based on employee input – North Fulton Community Charities and MyGoodDeed. Some of our employees have existing relationships with the organizations we work with, and they want to encourage their Aptean peers to become involved, too.

AC: It’s great that ACARE is able to facilitate that.

KM: It is, that’s one of the best parts about it.

AC: How did you become involved with ACARE? How has the program changed since you’ve become a part of the committee?

JS: I was researching Aptean before I was employed here, and I recognized that this was something Aptean did. So for me, that was a huge selling point. It’s such a great, valuable opportunity to offer employees. So much of my work history involves working with non-profits where it’s all about community and service, and so I was very eager to become involved from the get-go.

KM: Jessica’s story is pretty similar to mine. With every company I’ve worked for, I’ve always been very involved in philanthropic efforts. It’s something that’s important to me personally, and I knew when I joined Aptean I wanted to be involved in that aspect of the company. 

JS: From where I started to now I feel like there’s greater enthusiasm to be involved. There’s more input from the employees about what they want to do and see. There are so many ways to give back to the community; though money is a great way to give back, it’s not the only way. It’s also about donating time—going out and wrapping donated gifts around the holidays, we did that one year. We also recently went out and meal-packed for the Atlanta homeless. There are so many options here, and I feel like our employees have opened up our eyes to all that we can do and who we can become involved with.

AC: How does the ACARE committee work to support some of the Aptean company goals?

KM: One of our core values is win together. I’m the Alpharetta lead and Jessica is the North American chair, but different members of the committee are responsible for different charitable activities throughout the year. For example, with the Thanksgiving Food Drive, another committee member is taking the lead. We recognize that our greatest resource is the team, so by sharing the responsibility of ACARE, we’re able to collaborate, get to know more Aptean employees and do more for the community.

JS: And because it can be a serious time commitment to plan, coordinate and organize these events and charity partnerships, having a team of people willing to help out is huge.

KM: We had a couple of goals for ACARE when I first started working here a couple of years ago, which I believe are still applicable today. One, host at least one ACARE activity per quarter, and two, have a range of philanthropic opportunities that span different kinds of charities and commitments.

JS: I think those ring true today.

KM: Me too, and I’d actually add one more to that. It’s now a part of our mission to get as many people involved as possible.

JS: Absolutely, and I think we’ve succeeded with that. It’s hard to track, but we’ve had to grow to accommodate the number of people who want to be involved. When we participated in the Eco-Challenge to the Chattahoochee Nature Center, I was on a team with seven other people who I’ve rarely had the opportunity to work with before.

KM: Yes, and that’s another thing. Not only are more people becoming involved but it’s the perfect opportunity to get to know people at work who you may not have had a chance to meet before. Aptean’s a big company, and ACARE helps facilitate those interactions with employees in other departments. So many of the activities we do with ACARE have a team aspect to them, and we consciously structure the team so that they are cross-functional in nature.

JS: Exactly. ACARE presents an opportunity for you to not only engage with your community but engage with your coworkers.

AC: What do you think participating in events like you’ve mentioned does for company culture in the office?

KM: Honestly, I think it’s very easy to get caught up in the day-to-day. We all have jobs to do, meetings to go to, and this is a great way to meet other people at work and it gives you that sense that you really are making an impact. And I do think this starts from the top and trickles down. Vista Equity Partners is so great with this. Any kind of in-person event that they have with us involves some sort of charitable aspect tied to it. I know that at the first Best Practice Sharing Summit (BPSS) I went to, we partnered with a local school down in Miami that was impacted by Hurricane Irma, particularly the school’s music wing. During one evening at the event, we got to work with some of the kids in the music program. We were divided into groups, one student was with each of the groups, and we were tasked with coming up with a song. Vista would donate an instrument to the winning team’s student who had come up with the best song. Of course, everyone won, all the kids in the music program got brand new instruments. But it didn’t end there. Vista also made a monetary donation to the school and then repaired the roof of the music teacher’s house which had also been damaged during the hurricane. It’s so great to be part of an organization that gives back.

JS: And we adopted that same practice and mentality here at Aptean. Every year with our sales kickoff event, we have some sort of charity team building activity. Last year, for example, we built bikes and donated them to the Children’s Restoration Network. And this year we have something brewing, but we can’t tell you about that yet.

KM: No, you’ll have to wait and see!

Employees on an Aptean ACARE event

AC: Right now we’re in the midst of an ongoing ACARE event: the Thanksgiving Food Drive. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

JS: The cool thing about the Thanksgiving Drive this year is that we’re focusing on two different charities: Children’s Restoration Network (CRN) and North Fulton Community Charities. CRN has gone digital this year, so any monetary donations we receive, we’ll send directly to them. This allows our remote employees a chance to be involved and participate in one of our initiatives. And if they have friends or family who want to donate, they’re more than welcome to do that too. We’re opening it up to the public a little bit.

KM: Employees can also donate through Kudos, which is new.

JS: That’s right. Kudos is our employee recognition program where we can recognize each other for doing the great work we know is happening each and every day, and we’ve opened up a Kudos reward so employees can donate their earned Kudos points. Then, at the end of the drive, we’ll pool the points and make one large monetary donation. North Fulton Community Charities gave us a list of their most high-need foods, and what’s particularly great about this is that we’re donating foods to carry them not only through Thanksgiving but through the remainder of the year.

AC: How do you gauge interest in ACARE? What employees want to do, who they want to partner with?

KM: We do this a couple of ways. Aptean encourages employees to work with whatever charities they feel closest to. In Alpharetta, we do a survey at the beginning of every year where we list out all the organizations we’ve had relationships with to ensure we want to maintain those partnerships, we ask people what they’re passionate about and if there are additional charities that they suggest we work with. After we get the feedback, we plan out the following year.
We also have events that are ongoing throughout the year. We have the Ronald McDonald House Charities pop tabs and virtual races that employees can run at any time. Even with Kudos, there are ways year-round that employees can support their favorite charities and donate their points.

AC: Which ACARE event has been most rewarding for you and why?

JS: I participated in the Chattahoochee Nature Center Eco-Challenge this year. It was a lot of fun… I’ve never done that much running. We sponsored this event to support environmental education for kids around the area. The kids get to learn why it’s so important to protect the environment, and this is a part of Atlanta that’s right in our backyard. 

KM: On September 11, the ACARE team went down to the College Football Hall of Fame to work with MyGoodDeed, which is an organization created by the families and friends of 9/11 victims to honor and pay tribute to the many who rose in service following the attacks. The nonprofit continues to oversee the federally-designated September 11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, and 9/11 is now the largest annual day of charitable engagement in the nation. For the Atlanta Meal Pack event, we joined other organizations and volunteers and together we packed over 300,000 meal kits to support the organization’s mission to end hunger and homelessness. It’s was a great day; to not only serve others and remember those who so sacrificially served our country, but also to share it with fellow co-workers.

AC: That sounds amazing.

KM: And there’s one more! Field day.

JS: Oh yes, that was the best. 

KM: It was a fun, competitive day over the summer. Everyone was put into teams and we had different team competitions throughout the afternoon. My team lost, unfortunately.

JS: Mine tied for first place!

KM: And the best part about that was that everyone who participated brought in board games that we donated to Children’s Restoration Network. Kids were just getting out of school for the summer, so it was a great way to be able to provide some fun games for the children in foster care to be able to play as well.

AC: We’ve mostly been talking about what happens in North America, specifically the Atlanta area. Aptean’s a big company, what about all those folks who live elsewhere?

JS: Yes, absolutely. We’re certainly not the only ones who participate in this initiative. So many of our other offices are doing great work to support their local communities and the charities that they feel particularly tied to.

KM: Exactly. There’s so much good stuff going on, and many of the other Aptean hubs are just as involved in their communities. They share our enthusiasm for service and commitment to making the world a little better.

JS: And we also have ways for individuals to become involved even if their schedules don’t align with the planned office events. Or if they are remote. If, for example, you want to run a race where the proceeds go to a 501c3 charity in the US or the equivalent in other countries, then Aptean will reimburse that employee up to $35 per year. It’s a great opportunity for employees to continue to engage with their community on their own time in their own way.

At Aptean, we enjoy giving back to the community. We hope you’ll consider donating your time or money to those in need this holiday season. Here are a few websites recommendations that can help you find local charities: VolunteerMatch or All for Good.