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SAN DIEGO—Sherry Taylor, PHR, and Jeff Randall could have spent the morning taking in the sights. Phyllis G. Hartman, SPHR, could have prepared for the umpteenth time for the concurrent session she was to present at the 2010 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition here. Instead, all three, and about 60 other conference attendees, passed the morning June 26 standing shoulder to shoulder in a hot warehouse building on a military base near here, placing item after item in plastic bags, assembly line fashion.
And having a blast.
SHRM’s annual “voluntourism” event for 2010, co-sponsored with the USO, called for stuffing care packages for military personnel stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. It demanded some sweat and resulted in a few bumped elbows, but along the way the volunteers from SHRM and others in the community danced, sang, bonded and felt good about themselves. Each participant placed an item—such as a bag of toiletries, a puzzle book, a razor and snacks—in more than 1,500 bags destined for service members.
“It’s been a great experience,” said Taylor as a forklift scooped up thousands of the just-stuffed care packages and loaded them onto a truck. “It’s been a lot of fun—and very energizing.”
Taylor, who lives in New Oxford, Pa., and is HR manager for a complex run by Hanover, Pa.-based TimBar Packaging & Display, changed her flight to get to San Diego in time for the volunteer event. After all, her husband is in the National Guard, and she felt it was her turn to give back.
Same goes for Randall, who hails from Jonesboro, Ark., and is vice president of HR for TimBar. He served in the Marine Corps, and his son is currently serving in the Corps.
And while Hartman has no direct involvement in the military, she felt just as compelled to get involved. The founder of PGHR Consulting Inc. in Pittsburgh, co-author of
Never Get Lost Again: Navigating Your HR Career (SHRM, 2009), and presenter of today’s session, “Negotiating Your Way to a Bottom-Line Impact,” described the satisfaction she felt during the package stuffing as “huge.”
“It makes you feel proud to be an American,” she said. “It’s very special.”
The SHRM volunteers were welcomed to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar by its commanding officer, Col. Frank A. Richie, who said that the packages SHRM members were stuffing were valued highly by recipients. “It’s always nice to have a touch of home” when you’re in harm’s way, Richie said. “What we’re doing today, rest assured, will bring a smile to someone’s face.”
And so, after the “Star-Spangled Banner” was played, six assembly lines of volunteers passed bags from right to left, each volunteer adding an item as the bags passed. Aircraft engines roared outside the building, rock music blared inside, and volunteers bopped, sang and cheered as their progress was noted. Periodically, a stadium-style wave rippled through the warehouse. At one break, they danced a conga line. At the conclusion, participants enjoyed pizza and salad and the friendships they had started.
“It’s the camaraderie that’s so special,” Randall said. “It’s the spirit of making things together. It’s something that in HR we often try to do with our own companies” through various community volunteer projects. “There’s always something you can do.”
Steve Bates is manager of online editorial content for SHRM.
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