Employee-led Community Giving rallied 273 participants across five states, 18 locations, and 14 organizations to support housing and combat hunger
SEATTLE (October 15, 2019) – It was a rainy morning in Seattle and a group of Unico employees volunteering for the BLOCK Project weren’t expecting to grade a hill in someone’s backyard that day. In front of them was a daunting task in the form of a 25-foot slope, steep and muddy from the rain. It was one of the BLOCK Project’s most challenging sites to date and it was up to the volunteers to get it prepared for construction.
“Signing up, we thought it will be swinging hammers,” said Garrett Greene, a Unico financial analyst. “Instead, it was eight hours of breaking dirt.”
Undeterred, with shovels and pickaxes in hand, they broke into that dirt and hauled large rocks to prepare the site for an eventual accessory dwelling unit (ADU) which will provide shelter to individuals in need of housing. The BLOCK Project is a housing initiative and community building project centered on placing an ADU, known as a “BLOCK Home,” in the backyard of one single-family lot on every residentially-zoned block within the City of Seattle. The ADUs each consist of 125 square feet of space and feature a kitchen, bathroom, sleeping area, solar panels, toilets, and greywater system. By building these ADUs within existing neighborhoods, the initiative hopes to reintegrate individuals formerly living in the fringes of society back into their communities.
A few miles away, a different group of Unico employees was also working on a BLOCK Project site. The site is further along with a near-complete BLOCK Home. This Unico crew was indeed swinging hammers, installing metal panels on the exterior of the ADU and doing other landscaping work—finishing touches for that site. These groups are just two of the 18 groups of Unico employees—representing 273 participants—volunteering across organizations in five different states on Unico’s second annual community day of service, “All Hands Day.”
Every one of us can see in all of our markets the unmistakably visible aspects of the growing housing crisis. At the end of the day, the health and vitality of our regions and the success of our company depends on preserving the quality of life for everyone, which cannot be achieved without affordable housing.
Unico launched “All Hands Day” in 2018, an event organized by Unico’s employee-led Community Giving to demonstrate Unico’s commitment to the communities they serve and to engage employees in a thoughtful dialogue about causes that are near and dear to them.
Support in 2018 centered around five impact areas important to Unico and its employees: housing and hunger, health, youth, arts and culture, and sustainability.
This year the number of participants grew to 273 reflecting Unico’s expansion and growth since 2018—including participants in Unico’s new markets Nashville and Salt Lake City—representing 10 cities, five states, and over 1,600 hours of service in 18 locations.
The theme for 2019 was simple—“Compassion in Action”—which empowers employees to put words into mass action by facilitating a company-wide day of service across Unico’s markets working with a diverse group of non-profits focused on themes employees have highlighted as a societal priority: hunger, youth, and a special focus on housing.
“Homelessness is something that greatly affects the Pacific Northwest, sadly none of our markets are immune,” Unico CEO and Chairman of the Board Quentin Kuhrau wrote in a company-wide email about this year’s special theme. “So, I am thankful to all of you for committing to this year’s theme of helping the homeless and continuing Unico’s commitment to serving those who are in need.”
“Hopefully, you will be inspired to continue to volunteer throughout the year supporting your neighborhoods and communities,” added Kuhrau.
For this year’s “All Hands Day,” Unico employees made a positive impact across five states working with an assortment of 14 new and existing partner organizations. In Washington, employees supported Mary’s Place, Food Lifeline, Northwest Harvest, Bellwether Housing, Lifelong, Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission, Children’s Museum of Tacoma, YouthCare, and The BLOCK Project; in Oregon, participants supported Lambert House Adult Day Care and the Portland Parks & Recreation Department; in Colorado, volunteers helped sort through 7,600 pounds of food for the Food Bank of the Rockies; in Salt Lake City, participants supported the Salt Lake City Mission; and in Nashville, employees broke out hundreds of boxes of crackers for hungry kids for The Bridge Ministry.
Homelessness is something that greatly affects the Pacific Northwest, sadly none of our markets are immune.
Members of the Community Giving Committee worked hard to put their compassion into action in multiple markets and through coordination with dozens of property management offices. The steering committee is led by Unico’s Chief Accounting Officer Courtney Jolicoeur, Manager of Administration Rachel Bain, Communications Designer Sal Miramontes, and Junior Executive Assistant Nick Cousino. They were supported by a number of Unico employees who served as onsite coordinators and whose support was essential in the success of the event. They are, in no particular order: Audrey Lyon, Joy Clegg, Emilie Kaufman, Stephanie Cain, Hayley Hughes, Amber Olsen-Pells, Lindsay Urquhart, Sam Ulloa, Susan Robicheau, Hazel Morris, Clare McReynolds, Marc Caballero, Keren Eichen, Dawn Moore, Maria Clark, Korinna Chavez, Nicole Quirk, and Bre Courtright.
Just as last year, Unico employees donned custom-designed pacific blue t-shirts to the locations. The design depicts the company logo under one roof to reflect Unico values of collaboratively solving problems together and echoing the theme of “Compassion in Action.”
“The idea to have a theme centered on housing and hunger was borne out of a heartfelt discussion brought to the committee regarding the displacement that Unico’s role as a market activator can create. Our vision was to allow our employees the opportunity to spend time supporting organizations that focus all their resources and energy on solving one of our communities’ biggest challenges with a hope that all of us would walk away informed and inspired to take further action,” said Jolicoeur. “Every one of us can see in all of our markets the unmistakably visible aspects of the growing housing crisis. At the end of the day, the health and vitality of our regions and the success of our company depends on preserving the quality of life for everyone, which cannot be achieved without affordable housing.”
“We don’t want ‘All Hands Day’ to be a one-day event that people forget,” continued Jolicoeur. “We want to make lasting relationships with organizations that Unico and our employees can support throughout the year.”
It was that ethos of giving back to Unico’s communities that Greene highlighted regarding his volunteer team’s efforts that day at the BLOCK Project’s most challenging site.
“We were all in good spirits knowing we were doing something very tangible to address the housing crisis,” said Greene. “We were happy with the work we’ve done—and the work and seeing your progress was itself rewarding.”