Hanford employees know as they help charities, they help community

Hanford employees work in a variety of fields, from engineering to management, electrical and pipefitting. But despite their diverse career choices, thousands have one trait in common: philanthropy.

“We do about one to two employee-volunteer events a month,” said Reneé Brooks, communications specialist for Mission Support Alliance, the prime contractor for the Hanford site. “There’s times when we have waiting lists for events to volunteer because sometimes (the charitable organization) can’t have that many people in a room.”

MSA volunteer events vary from an hour-and-a-half to all-day activities, and while there’s definitely a few of the same people at every event, Brooks said usually about 10 percent of the crew is new.

“They’re people who have seen photos and know it’s fun and heard about activities from their co-workers and they want to make a difference,” she said.

While MSA has always had employees volunteer in the community, Brooks said the pool of volunteers really took off in 2015 when the company kicked off a program called MSA Cares.

“Our major focus is education and leadership development for youth—the STEM Foundation, Boys & Girls Club, Children’s Reading Foundation and Children’s Developmental Center,” Brooks said. “And we also look at the local quality of life. There are a lot of people who are less fortunate and have hit a rough patch, and that’s where we support the Tri-Cities Cancer Foundation, Union Gospel and Second Harvest. We look at how we can help those who maybe need a hand up.”

In 2017, MSA had more than 500 people sign up to volunteer their time. Employees don’t just donate their time; they make monetary gifts as well, with employee-led fundraisers for Junior Achievement and United Way campaign, for instance.

MSA is equally charitable, donating $13 million since 2009, when it was awarded the Hanford contract.

Bechtel employees volunteer their time to improve safety at Badger Mountain hiking spots by clearing, flattening and widening trails. Hanford contractors offer their employees plenty of opportunities to volunteer and give back in the communities they live and work in. (Courtesy Bechtel)

Bechtel employees volunteer their time to improve safety at Badger Mountain hiking spots by clearing, flattening and widening trails. Hanford contractors offer their employees plenty of opportunities to volunteer and give back in the communities they live and work in. (Courtesy Bechtel)

“That includes almost $700,000 in scholarships for local students and some large corporate donations,” Brooks said. “It’s the right thing to do. We may be a corporation, but we’re made up of our employees and we live in this community.”

Bechtel also has many employee volunteers. The company has had a presence in the community since the 1980s, and after demolishing surplus reactors, Bechtel shifted the focus of its work to Hanford cleanup—helping to remove contaminated soil to protect the Columbia River corridor.

“A common theme has been protecting the river, so with that—if you look at the types of organizations and charities that we get involved in—it’s really centered on making the Tri-Cities and surrounding region a better place to live and work,” said George Rangel, Bechtel spokesman.

For instance, Bechtel employees have helped improve safety for hikers at Badger Mountain by clearing, flattening and widening trails.

Bechtel also contributed more than $800,000 in corporate and employee gifts in 2017 to organizations such as Junior Achievement and United Way. Bechtel also supports the Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots campaign and has participated in the program for the past decade. In 2017, Bechtel provided $24,000 and employee-donated toys to the drive.

“It really speaks to the generosity of our employees and their willingness to give back,” he said.

Rangel said Bechtel’s primary focus is on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, programs to reach and help grow the next generation of workers. But helping workers within the company is also important, which is why Bechtel has developed leadership programs to provide employees with mentors and a sense of belonging.

“We have a group called NextGen, and this is a professional development, networking and stewardship group. They help support employees as they begin and build their careers at Bechtel, and they find worthwhile causes to get involved in the community as well,” Rangel said.

Washington River Protection Solutions also has company-sponsored employee engagement programs to encourage networking and volunteering. Known as WRPSpeed, the group organizes regular events and activities to give back to the community. Members have painted the interior of a Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties building, spent the weekend freshening up the playground at Howard Amon Park and provided muscle and manpower to veterans in need.

“In many cases, employees are looking for a way to volunteer,” said Rob Roxburgh, communications and public relations officer for WRPS, an AECOM-led LLC. “We think it’s important to strengthen and give back to the community.”

With Hanford facing an aging work force, WRPS also supports STEM programs to help train the next generation to get them thinking about careers in STEM fields. But Roxburgh also said WRPS works to make sure they take care of the small business community by finding ways to subcontract or partner with them to provide goods and services. Since 2011, WRPS has helped support the Tri-City Regional Chamber’s Small Business Incentive program, donating $30,000 annually to provide grants to local entrepreneurs.

“Grants are typically $2,000 each, and that can mean a lot for an upstart business to help them get software or build an online presence through a website,” Roxburgh said.

WRPS also makes a corporate gift to the United Way of Benton and Franklin Counties’ Cornerstone program, which covers overhead costs so that employee gifts go entirely to help the organization the employee is supporting.

“For the second straight year, WRPS has earned the Live United Corporate Partner of the Year Award for its efforts to help raise funding for the United Way,” Roxburgh said. “WRPS’ combined employee-company contribution totaled more than $248,000 for 2017.”

CH2M Hill Plateau Remediation Co. also supports the United Way and gives a 25-cent match for every donation that employees give through the campaign. CHPRC has also made large contributions to Washington State University Tri-Cities and Columbia Basin College to support STEM programs and donated a half-million dollars to Friends of Badger Mountain.

“We also do a school supply drive, Relay For Life, Trick or Treat on the Trail with the YMCA, and help with Meals on Wheels,” said Lynn Tegeler, spokeswoman for CHPRC. “And in December, we help with Salvation Army bell ringing. So instead of them paying someone to do it or not having a bell ringer out there, we volunteer.”

CHPRC started bell ringing in 2012 with 33 volunteers. In four years, that number grew to more than 100 volunteers, including the company’s CEO and vice presidents.

“We used to have three bell ringing locations and last year we had nine,” Tegeler said.

In September, CHPRC holds a golf tournament to raise money for the Union Gospel Mission. Volunteers also start gearing up for the STEM Like ME! Program that kicks off each fall at area middle schools. The program teaches kids about careers through hands-on learning activities.

“Our IT people come in and cover a table with a roadmap, calculator, black and white TV and dial telephone. Then they pull out their iPhone and say, ‘This replaced all the stuff on the table.’ Then the mentors say, ‘What will replace the iPhone?’ and (students) say, ‘Nothing will.’ Our mentors tell them, ‘We would have thought that, too. So which one of you will replace the iPhone?’ And that gets students excited and thinking about the possibilities and technology,” Tegeler said.

Tegeler said a lot of students don’t realize all the opportunities available at Hanford, and through programs such as STEM Like ME!, future generations are learning they can have rewarding careers right here at home.

“Not everyone needs to go to college to be a doctor or a lawyer,” she said. “We’re focusing on our giving where we’re building a highway to Hanford. We want to promote opportunities in our community for those next generation of workers.”

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