Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Volunteer at Cisco Global Services Week #ServiceWeek #WeAreCisco #BeTheBridge #CiscoCitizen #Volunteer #GiveBack #DoGood

Global Service Week was Cisco's new week-long employee volunteerism and mentoring campaign that empowers Employees to Be the Bridge in their communities by volunteering their time and talent with the charities they care about the most. Throughout the past week of September 26th - 30th,  Cisco employees around the world had a range of opportunities to volunteer with charitable partners that benefit their local communities.  Our goal was to Kick off the year with a focus on service and inspire employees to engage in volunteerism and giving during the campaign week and throughout the year.  CEO Chuck Robbins and the Executive Leadership Team were fully behind this initiative. Karen Walker, SVP and Chief Marketing Officer and Joe Cozzolino, SVP of Cisco Services also serve as our executive sponsors for this year's Global Service Week. 

I am proud to say for a small office we met and exceeded expectations by hosting one volunteer event a day!  Kicking off the week with Nick’s Fight to be Healed 5K,  Volunteering with  Soaring Words, and Zumba at Albany Med to help give kids a break from Cancer, Cooking Breakfasts, and Comforting Snacks and helping to beautify the Ronald McDonald House of the Capital Region, Harvesting Veggies Grown for Good at the Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York, and completing the week making care kits for our troops and donating blood in collaboration with the Albany Division of the American Red Cross!

Everyone did such an AMAZING job!!! It was humbling to help lead and organize such an extraordinary mission for such incredible volunteers!  We have certainly proved a little office can make a BIG impact.  Every day, we were fortunate to meet new colleagues and friends (many of which did not know each other).  We also learned that Albany employees have big hearts- and there is a lot of local need and enthusiasm to continue local initiatives in the future- so we can look forward to that.  Thank you to everyone who volunteered, or expressed interest to volunteer in the future, especially:

Thank you again for ALL you do. Volunteers don't get paid, not because they're worthless,
but because they're priceless.  ~Sherry Anderson

For those interested, here is some additional details about all the charities we supported:

  Soaring Words Arts and Crafts and Dance at Albany Medical Hospital- 3:00 pm- 4:00 pm

 Mission: Soaring Words - Soaringwords’ mission is to embrace hospitalized children, families and staff, encouraging positive health and healing. Soaringwords embraces ill children and their families both in person and online by providing fun, creative and educational modules based on positive psychology concepts.

  • Website: 
  • Volunteer Job Requirements:  I currently volunteer once a month, we do an hour of Zumba (I teach) and Arts & Crafts to children who cannot leave the hospital
  •  Address: 43 New Scotland Ave, Albany.  When you are facing the main pillars entrance (with the mobile MRI out front) the Physicians Pavilion is to the left (across from the College of Pharmacy). They have numerous events you can volunteer to partake in. 


This is sometimes hit or miss in my past experience all based upon the children and how they are feeling that particular day.  Luckily on this day we had a great turn out with a lot of children, parents, doctors, nurses and volunteers. There were a lot of smiles and happiness helping give these children a break from their time in the hospital.  Here are some pics from the events:

Albany Red Cross Flexible on Time- Facility is open 11:30- 7:00 pm

o Mission: Organizations gain goodwill from their community and build morale and camaraderie as their members work together for a good cause- and help save lives!  
o Volunteer Job Requirements:  Blood Donation
o Volunteers Needed:  Open, You can schedule your appt online or over the phone. 
o Address: 33 Everett Rd, Albany, NY 12208
o Suggestion: Go with a friend and email us your pictures, so we can post on Jive and share on social! #WeAreCisco

Experience:  The Red Cross makes it quick and easy to donate blood.  With a photo ID or two proofs of ID you can sign up (first time users can sign up to get a blood donor card which is even easier for future visits).  You check in, and they move you to a chair to start.  My nurse was very sweet and funny, and albeit my blood was not cooperative - it kept stopping and starting, they were able to keep it flowing and get the required amount in the allotted time. Not without bruising, and minor discomfort (the finger pricking to check iron hurt more)- but a small price to pay to save up to three lives! I also learned there are multiple donation types you can make ex double blood for those over 5'6 and 150 lbs, and platelet donations - essential for those with hemophilia, and cancer patients etc.  This process  takes about 2 hrs, but you watch a movie and relax, they only take platelets and filter and reinsert your blood so you can donate more frequently.

 Here are some additional  blood facts I learned as well:
  • Every two seconds someone in the U.S. needs blood.
  • Approximately 36,000 units of red blood cells are needed every day in the U.S.
  • Nearly 7,000 units of platelets and 10,000 units of plasma are needed daily in the U.S.
  • Nearly 21 million blood components are transfused each year in the U.S.
  • The average red blood cell transfusion is approximately 3 pints.
  • The blood type most often requested by hospitals is type O.
  • The blood used in an emergency is already on the shelves before the event occurs.
  • It is estimated that sickle cell disease affects 90,000 to 100,000 people in the U.S. About 1,000 babies are born with the disease each year. Sickle cell patients can require frequent blood transfusions throughout their lives.
  • More than 1.68 million people are expected to be diagnosed with cancer in 2016. Many of them will need blood, sometimes daily, during their chemotherapy treatment.
  • A single car accident victim can require as many as 100 pints of blood.

Ronald Mc Donald House – Two Time Options/Jobs Available

  • Mission: Providing stability and resources for families everywhere.  Helping a sick child fight their illness takes a big enough emotional toll on a family. Adding a financial strain can make it all almost too much to bear. RMHC can help address those problems, whether they involve housing that’s near a hospitalized child, the expense of staying together in another city, or even getting basic medical and dental care in a vulnerable community.
  • Times: Option A : 7:30 am-8:30 am (if interest) – Can go and make Breakfast for the house guests.  If interest, will need a lead contact. 
  • Volunteer Job Requirements:  Making Breakfast, baked comfort goodies for Families and Children staying at RMCH and helping to beautify their grounds.
  •  Address: 139 S Lake Ave, Albany, NY 12208, Their # (518) 438-2655

Experience:  I have always been a night person, so the idea of waking up at 6:30 am after a sleepless night with a nine month old did not sound appealing at first glance- but I know my schedule is not everybody's so I still left the option available.  We had three volunteers at that time, and five for the 10:00 shift- so I was all set, but as coordinator I could not leave the morning shift without a leader or a photographer.  So I sucked it up and woke up.  Once awake- I was excited to get there and start the day.  I was more excited when I realized that breakfast was a rare treat for the guests there.  They are always receiving dinners, scheduled months in advance- but breakfast (especially warm breakfast compared to standard cereal) is a treat.  We had a feast- cream of wheat with all the fixings, cranberries, almonds, brown sugar; a variety of toast and bagels with a variety of cream cheese, hot pancakes, bacon, corned beef hash, and the piece de resistance was eggs cooked to order by our volunteer John - omelettes, over easy, scrambled- you name it- he made it for all of our excited guests.  I learned later that John himself was once a resident of the Ronald McDonald House when his daughter became ill, and though she was now healthy it meant a lot for him to be able to pay it forward and share a warm meal with the 25 families in need of some food and kindness during their time of struggle. Meeting the amazingly gracious, and brave guests and parents was a feeling I cannot put into words.  Two of the guests were four year old boys fighting brain tumors- their adorable smiles despite their battles, their hope and thankfulness made me want to wake up every morning to serve these amazing people- regardless of the time. We then welcomed the second group who helped bake lemon cake, cookies, muffins and work to organize the toy room and beautify the grounds.  Each guest was so grateful, as they ate and hurried out the door to start their treatment, or visit family at Albany Med Hospital.  We brought them food, but what we received in return was better than any gift we could give them.  I cannot wait to do it again. 

     Regional Food Bank of Northeastern New York

  • Mission: The Regional Food Bank has been helping to feed the poor and hungry in our communities since 1982. It is the only organization of its kind in northeastern New York. The Food Bank collects large donations of food from the food industry and distributes it to charitable agencies serving hungry and disadvantaged people in 23 counties. From Plattsburgh to Newburgh, in urban, rural, and suburban communities, the Food Bank provides over 30 million pounds of food a year to 1,000 agencies.
  • Website: 
  •  Volunteer Job Requirements:  Opportunity to help harvest Patroon Land Farm near Thacher Park.  We are harvesting all the wonderful vegetables that have been growing all summer.
  • Volunteers Needed:  - OPEN! 
  • Address:   Harvesting Crops, Weeding, 132 Ketcham Road- Voorheesville, NY

Experience: Our mission - shuck garlic- shuck? well, maybe - that is my terminology.  As the food bank was under construction, we had the option to "harvest crops" - I did not know what exactly that meant... but as an Italian walking into the pungent smell of a green house filled with garlic made me happy and hungry.  Plus, we had the duplicitous benefit of warding off Vampires... just in case ;). It was great as we got to stand on a line and chat as we all got to know each other....most people had never met each other- for all of the events, because many of us our telecommuters or remote workers.   Even when in the office, most of us are too busy on calls, telepresences, or working with our respective teams to meet each other so this  Volunteering was a great opportunity to meet each other, new team members and friends in fun non work setting/sans office in the beautiful outdoors of Upstate NY. 

 Albany Red Cross Flexible on Time- Operation Care Kits for our Troops 

o Mission: our Service to the Armed Forces department is gearing up for a large Stand Down event in Albany this weekend, and we have a large amount of hygiene product that came in at the end last week that needs to be sorted and prepared to be distributed to veterans in need. We would probably need about 2-4 people for a few hours.
o Volunteer Job Requirements:  Help make care kits for our troops! #ThankyouforyourService
o Volunteers Needed:  Open, You can schedule your appt online or over the phone. 
o Address: 33 Everett Rd, Albany, NY 12208

Experience: This rounded off our fifth and final event.  Although we only needed two - four volunteers, the room was full of anxious people willing to help.  As my grandmother (Babci) often said- "many hands make for light work".  Our goal was to fill bags of hygeine products as care kits for our troops in need as a thank you for their service.  We made quick work of this task and were anxiously planning our next event (collaborating to hang smoke detectors in population dense urban homes/apartments in need.  Finishing ahead of schedule the volunteers also had the opportunity to donate blood/head back to work satisfied with a job well done. 

As I jumped in to lead the events last minute, I made all of this happen two weeks before the events. It was challenging because there were so many different contacts and schedules to manage- luckily everything worked seamlessly through planning-scheduling, marketing and communicating the events,  to our 100  person office.  I thought - in a worst case, I will show up and volunteer- in a best case we will get one to two others to help.  Expectations surpassed as all events were a smashing success
"I just want to pile on - Michelle you did a truly AMAZING job.   A reminder of what someone with great leadership skills can get others to do!!  Thank you for everything (even love that I still smell like garlic)!!" - Laura Tilton, Sales Training Development & Delivery, Cisco 
"Great job organizing these events.  You made it so easy to do some good.  Wish I could have done more.  Thank you. " Mark Culotti- Regional Manager, Cisco 
" Great effort by all.  There was also a Junior Achievement effort to add to that list. Thanks so much to the team for organizing all of this.  Incredible effort and success." Tony Suraci- Business Development Manager, Cisco 
" From all of us, I would like to say THANK YOU for a tremendous week and all your work to organize us!"- Ann Alexander- Sales and Business Development Manager, Cisco 
"Thank you so much for organizing a great team of volunteers to help at the Ronald McDonald House today. Our guests enjoyed being served breakfast by your friendly crew throughout the morning and the House smells amazing still from all the wonderful baked goods.The Toy Shop, hallways and playground look amazing after all their efforts too.  Thank you all so much!-  Tina Woodward, Volunteer coordinator at Ronald McDonald House
"#ServiceSundays.  We'd like to thank @Cisco for their #GlobalServicesWeekParticipation!  Thank you @miragusa for #Volunteering at #SoaringZumba!  We love reading about your experience.  Thank you for your contribution!  It does not go unnoticed!" - Lisa Buksbaum- CEO and team of Non Profit, Soaring Words

I am so grateful to work for a company like Cisco that supports and encourages us to volunteer and give back to others for this very important week, and throughout the year.  I feel blessed thankful for my many blessings- above all health.  Nothing is promised and for those people who selflessly sacrifice day in and day out for others - you are true inspirations.  Above all for the families and brave little warriors- you are the REAL Super Heros, and your positivity, and glowing smiles in the face of adversity is a lesson we can all learn from.  May God watch and protect you and I wish you health and happiness- and hope to visit again soon if only to hear you are being released and cured! <3.

I also think we proved small groups can do BIG things with great heart.  I realized there are many people who want to do good- and just need some direction on the many options which are available to them.  I used to do events coordination at my College- so this came natural to me.  Having a week dedicated to this was a great opportunity to realize some of the many volunteer opportunities available to all of us in our community.  We don't need a week, or a company, or even a team.  Each of us can take action by calling some local places and seeing if they want or need volunteers- nursing homes, animal shelters, Red Cross, Soup Kitchens, large or local non-profits all are looking for volunteers.  If you can organize a day and throw it on your teams calender's, or invite your neighbors or family  you will be surprised how many people want to join you, but don't know where to begin.  It just takes one person to lead the effort - let that one person be you!
#ServiceWeek #WeAreCisco #BeTheBridge #CiscoCitizen #Volunteer #GiveBack #DoGood

 "I expect to pass through life but once. If, therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do for any fellow being, let me do it now..."     
                ~William Penn