Helper’s High: The Importance of Giving Back

Ever heard of “helper’s high”? Volunteering gives you countless benefits including increasing self-confidence, combatting depression and making new friends.

Five charitable FCB employees take time out of their busy schedule to make a difference in their communities. They volunteer in various charitable areas and encourage you all to learn about the organizations they support and to start your journey helping others.

For the Hands-On Helper:
Monday Night Hospitality

Nancy Yates, associate creative director at FCB Health, has been working at a local soup kitchen for the last 10 years. Monday Night Hospitality serves a “restaurant-style meal” 52 Mondays a year, to upwards of 300 people every Monday. Even on holidays and through natural disasters, nothing has shut down the program in over 35 years. “Dinner with Dignity” serves a home-cooked meal to the homeless, elderly and those with low income, at tables.

“They hear a lot of ‘no’ in their world, but we try to be a world of ‘yes,’” shares Nancy. Nancy and the volunteers at Monday Night Hospitality raise money through private funding and spend their Mondays cooking or serving. The organization has also expanded to provide social services.

“I really care about doing things locally
if I possibly can,” says Nancy who has seen hardship through living and working in other parts of the world. “But you come home and New York also has so much poverty, and
people think they can’t make a difference.
But if you look locally you can find something to put your time into and make a difference
in people’s lives.”

Nancy shares that she has found a community through her service and sees the people she serves all over the city. She also says that there’s an incredible karma factor of giving back. As Nancy was going through the process of adopting her daughter from Vietnam, the volunteers of the soup kitchen organized a surprise baby shower for her. “It was so unexpected and it was such an amazing effort that people put out for me, and now they’ve become some of my really good friends.”

“All these good things can come out of stepping out of yourself for a while and giving back,” shares Nancy.

For the Animal Enthusiast:
Chimp Haven

For Cynthia Flowers, strategic planning director at FCB Health, it has become a priority to donate time to Chimp Haven, which started as a small sanctuary rescuing chimps from pharma company research labs. The organization has over a 20-year history, is on thechimp haven forefront of legislation in developing advocacy movements and is currently aiming to give chimps the status of personhood.

She sees her dedication to the organization as an elegant relationship since she works in pharma, and it has always bothered her that they must test on primates for HIV/AIDS and certain diseases. “It’s a nice way for me to feel a bit better about what I do and give back to the primates that have given us our lives,” explains Cynthia.

Cynthia is well-known for executing creative fund-raisers every quarter at FCB, whether it be thrift sales or selling handmade jewelry from a fellow creative director in the agency. She explains that management has been extremely supportive of her passion and allows her to spread awareness to others in the office. “People are very willing to donate their time,” states Cynthia who says members of the creative department have helped create fun posters for her fund-raisers in the past.

For more information on Chimp Haven, Cynthia directs others to visit their dynamic website that lists goals for the year, ways to donate materials and options to adopt a chimp. “There’s so many different ways, there is probably at least one way for a person to help,” says Cynthia.

For the Cancer Patients’ Supporter:
Free to Breathe

Nicole Habib, account group supervisor at NeON, volunteers as the local event chair for Free to Breathe, a nonprofit that raises vital lung cancer research funds. Five years ago, Nicole lost her mother to lung cancer and she was looking to contribute to the community.

“I wanted to use my experience so others don’t have to go through this as well, so they feel a sense of hope and community and know they are not alone,” shares Nicole. One of her friends directed her to Free to Breathe in Philadelphia, where she participated for three years before spearheading the initiative to bring the organization to New York.

She is proud of organizing the annual 5K walks and also dedicates time to fundraise with her mom’s team. “The number one thing we focus on is funding for research, because without research we won’t ever find help,” explains Nicole. NeON, where Nicole works, has chosen Free to Breathe as their charity of choice, and Nicole hopes to also set up a NeON team for this year’s 5K in October.

“It’s nice to carve some time out to make someone else smile,” says Nicole who advises people to find organizations with goals that align with their own.

For the Compassionate Children’s’ Volunteer:
Ronald McDonald House

Over the years, Melissa Slonski, management director at FCB Chicago, has gotten involved with the Ronald McDonald House. She used to run fundraisers, annual tournaments and even wine socials to raise money for building a new house and funding for the capital campaign. Now, Melissa volunteers at the house a few times a month and says, “I think it’s rewarding to give back and take the time to really be selfless.”

Melissa’s history with the Ronald McDonald House, a charity that provide support for ill children and their families, goes back to her days as a college student. The house was the national philanthropy for her sorority, and today Melissa is the sorority chapter advisor at Loyola. “It’s a nice way for these women to raise money for the house… I feel like I’m helping them be connected,” explains Melissa.

Growing up, Melissa’s mother worked at Children’s Memorial Hospital in neurosurgery and always told Melissa to give back to people that were not as fortunate as they were. While working as the closing shift volunteer at Ronald McDonald House, Melissa says she met people that her mom was a nurse for, something that was truly special to her. She also recalls fond memories spending time with families who were away from their loved ones during Christmastime. Nicole believes even small acts of volunteering can really make a difference in other people’s lives.

For the Athletic Humanitarian:
Special Olympics

Annually, Dylon Burns, art director at FCB Garfinkel, involves himself in the Special Olympics, the world’s largest sports organization for children and adults with intellectual disabilities. He got wind of the event through snowboarders that volunteer as coaches. During the winter, Dylon is a snowboarding coach and also coaches for downhill slalom racing. “Most of them are really great athletes, better skiers and snowboarders than people I know,” says Dylon. He encourages the participants, sets up their time, brings them to their gate and enjoys being their buddy for the day.

He also participates in the summer event by running the 400m track race, and every year he tries to recommend a few of his friends to volunteer for the Special Olympics as well. The summer event takes place over a weekend so Dylon explains, “It really doesn’t cut into your time, which can be an excuse for people. It doesn’t matter when you are giving back, it’s about pulling the trigger and committing.”

Every year, Dylon also volunteers for Pass it Along in his hometown where children go to inner cities to help the less fortunate. “It’s children working with other children, learning about their world,” says Dylon. As a creative at heart, Dylon helped paint a mural on a school wall with 200 of the children.

He also shares that he has developed relationships with the children he has worked with, and sees them as role models. “It’s a mutually beneficial experience, and you don’t get that anywhere else. You’re not doing it for a paycheck or any other incentive besides the sake of good.”

Want to Get a Head Start in
Giving Back to your Community?

The first step is to find a category that interests you. “Something even as simple as a Google search [can help you] to see if there’s anything in the area,” suggests Nicole. Melissa and Dylon advise others to talk to everyone they can at work or locally, as information travels quickly through word of mouth.

Nancy suggests the site New York Cares for people in the area. Although people may be discouraged from volunteering from fear of commitment, the site can aggregate one-time opportunities. You choose the type of volunteering you are interested in along with days of the week that you are available, and the site pulls up a variety of customized options.

Taproot is also an international organization recommended by Cynthia for professionals. Like a recruitment firm, the organization recruits professionals to work a set number of hours per week for a nonprofit charity. Cynthia shares, “Taproot Foundation is a great idea in helping purposefully direct your skill set to the right nonprofit and the right role so it’s a more efficient spend of your time, and the nonprofit gets their best fit.”