In early 2015, two teams within Highmark’s Pharmacy Markets department merged — Manufacturer Contracting and Manufacturer Rebates — and our manager asked us to suggest a unique team-building event to help us bond with our new co-workers. She recommended organizing something through the Highmark employee volunteer program, which aims to help make communities stronger, healthier places to live.

Our group wanted to find an opportunity that would be both meaningful and fun. I was tasked with finding an activity but was unsure where to begin, so I reached out to Jerry DeNucci, a senior community affairs analyst in the Highmark Community Affairs department, to find a project that would best fit a group of 15 people.

Getting a Summer Camp Program Ready for the Kids

Jerry made us a most intriguing offer: to help the Sarah Heinz House, located on the North Side of Pittsburgh, prepare for its yearly summer camps.

Knowing little about the Sarah Heinz House, and even less about its summer day camps, I took some time to learn exactly what it was that they do. What I found was an organization that is much more than an afterschool program.

It is a club that provides children and teens with a safe, fun place to go after school, on weekends and during the summer. Through educational, artistic, recreational and community service programs — such as swimming lessons and robotics camp — the staff promote healthy lifestyles and create an environment that is welcoming, nurturing and challenging.

Once we knew the mission of this organization, which was founded in 1901, the entire team eagerly agreed to do whatever we could to help the Sarah Heinz House during their seasonal conversion from an “After School Program” to a “Summer Camp.” On the day of our volunteer activity, we first took a tour of the Sarah Heinz House facility with the friendly staff so that we could gain a full appreciation of all of the services that they had to offer.

A Recreational Environment That Encourages Personal Development

We were amazed by all of the great amenities at the facility — including its incredible indoor swimming pool, game room, robotics lab and full gymnasium. Each of these program areas gives kids from diverse backgrounds and neighborhoods an opportunity to learn in a fun environment that fosters personal development.

Sarah Heinz House volunteers

Volunteers from Highmark cleaning the café at the Sarah Heinz House, one of many tasks we completed that day.

With full hearts, the Highmark volunteers were ready to do what it took to make an impact. We pulled weeds, swept gravel, scrubbed tables and floors, cleaned the kitchen and generally made this gem of a facility shine brightly. Following a full day of cleaning and organizing, the Sarah Heinz House was ready to welcome hundreds of Pittsburgh-area kids to one of their five day camps.

Each member of the team said that they had a ton of fun, and we all left with a tremendous sense of satisfaction. The work we had done was very visible and enabled this North Side mainstay to offer their services to as many kids as possible. (If you’re in Pittsburgh, you can learn more about volunteering at the Sarah Heinz House and consider helping the organization yourself.)

Positive Impacts All Around

From my personal experience, I cannot recommend enough taking the time at your own workplace to discuss how you can volunteer your time and talents to the betterment of our communities. You may be surprised to find how a seemingly small task — or one day of your time — can have such a positive impact on deserving people and an organization.

As employees and co-workers, we also changed for the better from our volunteering experience. Following the event, our manager said she noticed a positive change in the relationship among the members of the Manufacturer Contracting and Manufacturer Rebate Invoicing teams, with less compartmentalization, better communication and a more relaxed environment.

Highmark volunteers at Sarah Heinz House

All of the volunteers with big smiles and full hearts after a great day at the Sarah Heinz House.