When the unexpected happened in Trent Boser’s personal life, it was reassuring to have a work family that was resolved to see him through.
Boser had never heard of the WE Care Fund — or anything like it, really — when he first joined Wells Fargo. He didn’t know his colleagues had been contributing to the fund for years, or that he’d be calling the WE Care Fund after just a few months on the job.
But then Boser got a phone call at work that brought him to his knees: His 5-year-old daughter, Macy, had been killed in a car accident.
Boser’s fellow team members immediately rallied around him. They rushed to his side, offered condolences, and gave him a ride home. His manager, Brian Border, told him about the WE Care Fund — an employee relief effort that is now $7.9 million strong, thanks to team member contributions over the past 15 years.
The WE Care Fund helped Boser pay for funeral and other expenses as the mortgage consultant in Santa Clarita, California, fought to hold his life together.
“The WE Care Fund handled everything. They set me up with a grief counselor right away, and they also dealt directly with the funeral home,” Boser says. “It was the best thing they could’ve done, for sure, because just getting out of bed in the morning was almost impossible.”
Supporting one another as a work family
Wells Fargo’s WE Care Fund, now in its 15th year, has helped Boser and nearly 4,400 other team members recover from natural disasters, accidents, and other life-changing events
The fund offers two types of assistance:
- Grants for disaster-related expenses.
- Grants for family emergencies and other personal hardships.
Money for food, lodging, transportation, and other urgent expenses often is electronically deposited into the team member’s checking account; some grant applications have been turned around as quickly as 24 hours.
Carrie Wolter, a community affairs program manager in Government and Community Affairs who manages the WE Care Fund for Wells Fargo, said the fund allows people to help others in a way that differs from donating to national nonprofits. This is neighbor helping neighbor, a form of barn raising in the workplace among colleagues who might one day need the same kind of assistance themselves. And this year the fund expanded overseas as WE Care International.
“I think it’s important to have a program like WE Care because it shows we truly ‘walk the walk’ of our vision and values” Wolter said. “You’re essentially getting the opportunity to help your work family and support several colleagues going through a really tough time.”
A first responder from its start
The idea for an employee relief fund began in Florida in 1992 — as a resource for employees of First Union (a Wells Fargo predecessor) when they wanted to help each other get back on their feet after hurricanes damaged homes and lives.
“Extensive research was done back then and we found that very few companies were doing anything like it,” said Operational Risk Consultant Stephen Michael, who helped develop the idea. “To see what the WE Care Fund has become and what it has inspired others to create at their own companies — and the ripple effect of the lives helped there, as well — is very gratifying.”
The effort got its official launch as the Wachovia September 11 Relief Fund in 2001, just three days after the terrorist attacks. Team members contributed $400,000 to help affected colleagues. In 2008, after Wells Fargo’s acquisition of Wachovia, team members continued supporting each other under a new name: the WE Care Fund.
This is neighbor helping neighbor, a form of barn-raising in the workplace among colleagues who might one day need the same kind of assistance themselves.
The first employee relief fund administered by Foundation For The Carolinas, the WE Care Fund is now one of 35 the foundation administers.
“We’re seeing exponential growth in these funds as more companies find out about them, more of their own employees ask for them, and companies realize the tax and legal benefits of having a fund administrator,” says Davida Rivens, who helps administer Wells Fargo’s program and others for E4E Relief, the foundation’s disaster-assistance subsidiary.
Bridging the gap
About nine percent of Wells Fargo team members donate to the WE Care Fund each year — one of the highest percentages for funds of its type, Rivens said. This year, through Wells Fargo’s 2016 Community Support Campaign, team members pledged more than $987,000 to the WE Care Fund, she said.
“The goal is to help bridge the gap and create a work environment where team members feel cared for,” Wolter said.
“If your spouse unexpectedly gets sick, the rest of your life can quickly spiral out of control,” she added. “We want to make sure our fellow team members are safe and have the necessities to get back on their feet after a disaster or financial hardship.”
Boser has now been a Wells Fargo team member for more than a decade. He says he is “forever grateful” for the WE Care Fund and the team members who immediately stepped in to support him during one of the most difficult times in his life.
“You don’t forget something like that,” Boser says. “My whole team and company rallied around me and that’s a big part of why I am successful personally and professionally today.”