Wells Fargo team members unite to support communities.
Volunteering & Giving
October 21, 2016

Team members unite to support communities

Team members have used paid time off and Wells Fargo’s workplace Community Support Campaign as opportunities to roll up their sleeves and support the causes they care about most.

They’ve been providing emergency shelter for the homeless, paying their respects to veterans, and mentoring young women — and that was just in September. Wells Fargo team members are committed to making a positive difference in thousands of local communities. That’s true all year long but especially during this time of year, when the company conducts its annual Community Support Campaign.

Through the 2016 Community Support Campaign, team members pledged $60.7 million to 30,000 charitable organizations and recorded 318,000 volunteer hours.

Wells Fargo team members giving back.
Team members giving back (from left): Kim Franklin builds schools in Guatemala; Haley Currie (left) and Lisa Biegger-McMahon restore veterans' headstones; Natasha Smith (far right) spends time with her mentee, Brianna Jones, and Brianna's daughter, Mia.

Over the past five years, total contributions — including campaign pledges and donations made directly to nonprofits outside the campaign — totaled $464 million, and team members recorded more than 8 million volunteer hours in their communities.

In 2015, for the seventh year in a row, United Way named Wells Fargo’s Community Support Campaign the No. 1 Giving Campaign. United Way recently published an advertisement in USA Today (PDF) to thank team members for creating “lasting change in our communities.”

“Wells Fargo and its team members are deeply committed to United Way’s mission of improving lives and building stronger communities,” said Brian Gallagher, President and CEO of United Way Worldwide. “Wells Fargo team members regularly give their time and talents to make a difference, and we at United Way are honored and inspired by their commitment. It’s thanks to partners like Wells Fargo that we can effectively fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community.”

Here’s a sampling of efforts from 2016, large and small:

Paying it forward in Utah

“I know that when I volunteer at Vinny’s, 600 people in my community will not go to bed hungry.” — Admir Aleksic

When he was 11 years old in 1992, Admir Aleksic of Wells Fargo’s Wholesale Banking escaped the Bosnian war to live in Germany.

“Without volunteers and community support groups, we wouldn’t have had access to shelter, food, or clothing when we fled from our homes,” says Admir, who now works in Salt Lake City.

Admir volunteers with Dinner at Vinny’s, a nightly Catholic Community Services of Utah event that provides hot meals to the homeless.

“I am now in a place that I can return the favor and help someone else in need,” Admir says. “I know that when I volunteer at Vinny’s, 600 people in my community will not go to bed hungry.”

Mentoring a young mom in South Dakota

“Easily the most rewarding thing I did this year was offer her my time.” — Natasha Smith

Natasha Smith of the Community Bank in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, knows what it’s like to be a teenage mom, which is why she decided to mentor a young mother through her local Big Brothers Big Sisters affiliate. “As a former teen mom, I am able to relate to the struggles she experiences,” Natasha says. “I wanted to be able to guide someone else through all they may face.”

Natasha’s mentee was facing a lot; she struggled with addiction and had lost custody of her daughter. But with Natasha’s support, the young mother has regained custody of her daughter and is working to become a licensed addiction counselor.

“Easily the most rewarding thing I did this year,” Natasha says, “was offer her my time, guidance, and support.”

Supporting fellow soldiers in California

“The biggest challenge of adjusting to civilian life is not understanding our potential in the job market.” — Abraham Pelaez

When Abraham Pelaez left the military in 2005 after serving in the U.S. Army and California Army National Guard, he thought his only job option was to continue working in the field he’d been trained in: heating and air conditioning.

“It wasn’t bad, but I wasn’t passionate about it,” says Abraham. Fortunately, his veteran benefits helped him earn a bachelor’s degree in ethnic studies at California State University, Sacramento, and he now works as a branch manager for Wells Fargo in Sacramento. “As veterans, the biggest challenge of adjusting to civilian life is understanding our potential in the job market.”

In October, he returned to his alma mater — along with fellow veteran Eric Tompkins of Wells Fargo’s Community Bank and Pedar Bruce of Wells Fargo’s Chief Administrative Office — to help more than 50 veterans explore their civilian career options, improve their resumes, and hone their skills in mock interviews.

“I was excited to volunteer with these veteran students because they’re incredibly inspiring,” Pedar says. “The Sacramento State’s Veteran Success Center has been an excellent example in how a company like Wells Fargo can make a difference with individuals.”

Building schools in Guatemala

“It was the most fulfilling and memorable trip of my life.” — Kim Franklin

Kim Franklin of Wells Fargo’s Consumer Lending Group in Des Moines always wanted to participate in a volunteer mission in a foreign country. She got the chance in February, when she spent a week in Guatemala volunteering with Hug It Forward, an organization that focuses on education and environmental awareness efforts in Latin America.

Kim volunteered to help build “bottle schools” — which use plastic bottles stuffed with inorganic trash, or “eco-bricks” — to construct classrooms in economically and environmentally sustainable ways.

“It was the most fulfilling and memorable trip of my life,” Kim says. “The communities are filled with loving, caring, and fun people who want to improve the community and the education of their children.”

Kim’s already planning to go back next year, organizing another school build in the summer.

Honoring late veterans in Iowa

“Easily the most rewarding thing I did this year was offer her my time.” — Natasha Smith

At Glendale Cemetery in Des Moines, Iowa — where military veterans, Vice President Henry A. Wallace, and others have been laid to rest — families are responsible for the care and maintenance of headstones. But over time, many headstones became neglected and needed some work.

To help with that, four team members from Wells Fargo’s Consumer Lending Group — Larissa French, Haley Currie, Lisa Biegger-McMahon, and Meghan Wallis — participated in a four-day project to lift, straighten, and add more sand under hundreds of veterans’ headstones so the markers don’t settle below the grass again.

“Everyone worked together to do what honestly was a very difficult task of lifting these heavy, bulky, awkward headstones,” Larissa says. “Even though we weren’t interacting directly with living veterans … it’s clear there was a lot of love and respect there.”

Providing warmth in Alaska

“I realized there weren’t any emergency shelters, and I wanted to do something about it.”— Jon Cochrane

When Jon Cochrane of Wells Fargo’s Community Bank moved from Salt Lake City to Bethel, Alaska, in 2012, he saw local news reports that homeless people were dying every winter because of exposure.

“I realized there weren’t any emergency shelters, and I wanted to do something about it,” he says.

Jon decided in October 2013 to meet with community leaders to create a solution. Just two months later, they opened the Bethel Winter House, an emergency shelter operated by Bethel Winter Shelter Lions Club that is available Dec. 1 – March 31 each year.

Since the shelter opened in 2013, fatalities attributable to exposure have dropped, according to local news reports.

“I have learned that one person can have a large impact by volunteering his or her time,” Jon says. “My advice is to find something you are passionate about and get involved. One person can really make a huge difference if they are actively engaged.”

Guiding girls in Washington

“I could see the girls become more confident and pursue goals they never dreamed of achieving.” — Sue Riney

Sue Riney of the Community Bank in Oak Harbor, Washington, is committed to helping young women get a good education so that they can get jobs and secure their futures. But she worries that certain obstacles, like peer pressure and negative body images, have prevented girls from excelling at school.

“I’ve been fortunate throughout my life to have many individuals — both men and women — who have served as mentors, guided me, and provided support and advice,” Sue says. “But not all girls have access to mentors who can help them navigate the path from dream to reality.”

So Sue teamed up with Stephanie Smith of Wells Fargo’s Chief Administrative Office to plan, raise money for, and facilitate weekly sessions for “Dream It, Be It:  Career Support for Girls,” a global program for girls in high school who face obstacles to their future success. Sue and Stephanie lead sessions on exploring career opportunities, setting and achieving goals, overcoming obstacles to success, and moving forward after setbacks.

“Serving as a facilitator and mentor for the ‘Dream It, Be It’ program was enriching,” Sue says, “because I could see the girls become more confident and pursue goals they never dreamed of achieving.”

Filling sandbags in Minnesota

“I’m so thankful that my company makes it easy to pitch in at a moment’s notice.” — Sarah Jo Carroll

When southern Minnesota experienced serious flooding in September, Sarah Jo Carroll of Wells Fargo’s Community Bank in Morristown was concerned — especially since her son’s school, located near a river, was in jeopardy. She reached out to her manager about her interest in helping nearby towns fill sandbags, and her manager approved her paid community service leave to help out. Full-time team members receive up to 16 paid hours of time off a year to devote to community service.

Sarah Jo spent an afternoon filling sandbags for the community near the school where her son attends kindergarten. She says, “I’m so thankful that my company makes it easy to pitch in at a moment’s notice.”