Friday, May 29, 2020

#FridayGiving: Employee volunteers support communities during health crisis ‘We just felt the need to help’

The COVID-19 pandemic has strained the resources of local communities and social services organizations. Despite the challenges involved, many We Energies employees have found ways to help out and volunteer safely from their own homes.

Some employees and their family members have assembled face masks to address local shortages. In the Milwaukee area, Donna Olson, senior IT infrastructure consultant, and Ellen Dizard, attorney, participated in #MaskUpMKE, a United Way-supported project that drew over 1,300 community volunteers and produced over 1 million masks for local agencies. Others have donated masks directly to healthcare workers.

“I've made dozens of masks for Children’s Hospital, Froedtert Hospital, and for nurses and CNA friends that requested them,” said Mary Wolter, director — gas regulatory planning policy. “I had some fun with the fabric choices. Most popular were the patriotic ones!” 

Ear savers crocheted by Melodie Falek.

To help people wear masks more comfortably, employees also have donated ear savers to hook on to the elastic straps. Jacob Spencer, designer, has 3D-printed them, while Melodie Falek, office assistant, has been crocheting them for medical professionals and other first responders. 

Employees are addressing other community needs, as well. Mary Brooks, office assistant, has volunteered at the St. Catherine Food Pantry in Milwaukee, and Matthew Gertsch, contractor, has made an extra effort to donate blood at a time when the American Red Cross is facing shortages.

Carol O’Leary, specialist III, worked to establish an urban farm to benefit MacCanon Brown Sanctuary, a food pantry and homeless shelter in Milwaukee. 

Volunteers planting peppers and tomatoes at the urban farm Carol O'Leary supported.

In addition to volunteering, many employees have contributed to local organizations and businesses impacted by COVID-19.

“Since my husband and I are both still working, we decided to put our stimulus checks to work helping others,” said Cindy Gaffney, IT Service Desk representative, who has donated to restaurants and hair stylists, as well as faith organizations and the Hunger Task Force. “Sure, we could use it on bills or projects around the house, but others are not working, and we just felt the need to help.”

We Energies and Wisconsin Public Service (WPS) — part of the WEC Energy Group family of companies — are contributing $1 million through their charitable foundations to help communities during the COVID-19 pandemic. These include donations to local United Ways, hospitals, domestic violence shelters, food pantries, youth programs and other organizations on the front lines. For more information about current volunteer needs in your community, visit your local United Way website or search for opportunities.

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