How one Volunteer Day created a long-term commitment
November 15, 2015
For BMO employee Kelly Johnson, a financial analyst at BMO Harris Commercial Bank, participating in Volunteer Day opened up a whole new world beyond a one-day activity. Joining her peers on June 4, 2015 in volunteering for Chicago-based City Year, Kelly felt as though things had come full circle. During Volunteer Day 2014, she became inspired by the charity’s work and became more involved with them, eventually joining the organization’s Associate Board later in the year.
City Year partners with at-risk high schools to provide extra support to students and to help them reach their full potential. They help students stay on track by hosting school-wide events, and by providing after-school programming and in-class support for teachers. According to the organization, when students drop out of school they are eight times more likely to become incarcerated and three times more likely to become unemployed, which has negative effects on the community as a whole.
For Kelly, supporting the organization’s mandate was a no-brainer. “I participated in the City Year project in 2014 and in 2015,” she says. “Both years, volunteers spent time painting murals, inspirational quotes and banners. We were beautifying the selected schools to make them welcoming and an exciting place for the students to come in, learn and feel motivated to work hard. City Year is big on instilling a sense of responsibility in these students and pushing them to see themselves as proud and successful leaders.”
Kelly calls the experience of volunteering with City Year Chicago “a shot of life” and is thankful for having had the opportunity to connect with the charity through BMO Volunteer Day, an experience she continues to find very rewarding. “I see nothing but happy faces on these projects. It really is a wonderful tradition and I’m proud to say I work for an organization that supports not only City Year, but numerous other organizations that are also doing great work in the communities we serve.”
This year, Kelly joined nearly 6,000 of BMO’s employees who stepped away from their desks and took part in the annual Volunteer Day, which continues to grow and is now taking place in communities BMO serves across both Canada and the U.S. More than 18,685 volunteer hours were donated to projects ranging from renovating houses to serving lunch to seniors — the equivalent of nine years of full-time work. Some of the projects included:
- Helping sand and paint trim, bending aluminum siding, and planting victory gardens at the Milwaukee, WI Habitat for Humanity warehouse.
- Hauling brush, mulched trails and planted trees at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center in Madison, WI.
- Landscaping, painting, window washing and general cleanup at transitional housing for homeless veterans in Indianapolis, IN.
- Building Habitat for Humanity homes in the Carondelet neighborhood of South St. Louis, IL.
- Mulching, weeding and tending to the garden beds at the Rock River Valley Food Pantry in Rockford, IL. The garden is an important source of fresh vegetables throughout the summer for the pantry's more than 7,000 monthly visitors.