Our “Volunteerism at Work” series explores the volunteer culture at Highmark, which is a longstanding component of the company’s mission, vision and values and social mission. The series will cover how Highmark supports employee volunteerism, profile employees who volunteer, and report on events in our communities where Highmark employees pitched in to make a difference.

For some of us, Saturday mornings mean pancakes, PJs and coffee. For others, it means kids’ soccer, little league or swim team. But for many Highmark employees and their families, Saturday Oct. 25 meant taking time to give back, as they joined millions of volunteers across the country taking part in national Make a Difference Day.

Volunteerism is nothing new to Highmark employees. Last year, our employees across Pennsylvania, Delaware and West Virginia logged more than 39,000 hours of volunteer service. But this year was the first time that Highmark as an organization participated in Make a Difference Day, a national day of volunteerism created more than 20 years ago by USA Weekend that has evolved into the country’s largest day of community service.

“It was a great opportunity for our employees to give back on a much larger scale,” said Judi Windom, Highmark senior community affairs analyst. “To collectively be a part of something this large, on a national level, was important.”

Planting Trees, Helping Animal Shelters and Giving Kids Winter Coats

All across the regions that Highmark serves, approximately 300 employees and their family members planted trees, pitched in at animal shelters and helped kids find new winter jackets, to name just a few of the organizations and causes helped that day. We volunteered with 25 different organizations, giving our time and in some cases, a little sweat and elbow grease.

In Delaware, I was part of the team that gathered to repaint a house for NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness. NAMI manages houses like the one our group painted all over the state, as a way to provide permanent, affordable housing for individuals with  chronic mental illness.

Painting with NAMI

With 12 of us wielding rollers, in just a few hours we were able to brighten up the house, and make it look like new for the women who live there — which is a lot more satisfying way to spend a Saturday than eating pancakes.

Here’s a look at some of the other volunteer efforts Highmark employees took part in:

Boys & Girls Club Harrisburg

Employee Alesia Davis helped young children with arts and crafts at the Boys & Girls Club of Harrisburg.

Staying warm with Project Bundle Up

Highmark volunteers helped kids select new, warm winter coats as part of the Salvation Army’s Project Bundle Up.

Painting at the Erie YMCA

Our volunteers added a fresh coat of blue paint to the upper gymnasium at the Erie YMCA.

Sorting for the Cinderella Project

For the Cinderella Project, our volunteers sorted formal wear that will be available for income-eligible teens in Johnstown.

Friends of the Riverfront plant trees in Pittsburgh

These happy volunteers helped Friends of the Riverfront plant trees in Pittsburgh.

Erie Bayfront Maritime Center

At the Bayfront Maritime Center in Erie, volunteers cleaned, painted and posted educational materials.

Charleston Kittens

Young volunteers kept the kittens company while the adults cleaned the cages at the Kanawha Charleston Humane Association in West Virginia.

Leaf-blowing at the Botanical Garden

These sisters helped collect leaves at Pittsburgh Botanic Garden. Other volunteers helped build trails and perform maintenance.