In The Beginning....

by Alessandra Cavalluzzi

I guess you could say that I was always drawn to charitable causes and helping others. I credit my mother and grandmother with my passion for community service, as they were always putting the needs of others before their own. My mother, Jane, has always been a very giving person. I remember many times as a child hearing her say that you should perform random acts of kindness and lend a hand to those who need it most. My grandmother, Angelina, was a very religious woman. A Roman Catholic by birth, she attended Sunday mass every week and would spend most of her days reciting the rosary.

One of the fondest memories I have of my “Nonna” was when I found her reciting her prayers one day in her apartment. I asked her why she was always praying, because it seemed to me that she was never without her rosary beads. I remember joking with her that if she couldn’t get into Heaven with all the praying she’d done over the years, then surely there was no hope for the rest of us. She replied, “I’m not praying for myself, I’m praying for our family.” When I asked why, she said, “I know how busy everyone is with work and life, and that you may not have the time to pray. So I am doing it for you.” My grandmother passed away in 1993, and those words still resonate with me today. To me, it’s the perfect example of selflessness. That she would spend her entire day praying for the benefit of others and not herself amazed me.

Fast forward to 2004. I had been at my company for eight years. While we had always been a giving organization, our philanthropy was focused mainly on making charitable donations to a number of local nonprofits. Most of our donations were made out of our corporate headquarters. The leadership in our other locations oversaw charity donations to their local nonprofits, but no one owned the overall effort, and there wasn’t a strategy or plan around it.

In the midst of this donation program, a small group of employees at our headquarters was taking it upon themselves to coordinate events aimed at boosting employee morale. One day, the Senior VP of Human Resources, who was my manager at the time, asked us in a staff meeting if anyone would be interested in representing HR on this volunteer team. I raised my hand and with that became the HR representative.  

It was the beginning of an amazing and rewarding journey  -- from "A Million Dollars In Change:  How to Engage Your Employees, Attract Top Talent, and Make the World a Better Place" (January 2018 release)