Volunteering, An Opportunity to Grow!

Mary Kate Riordan, Social Media

The Maple Ridge Farms team embraces a tradition of volunteering. Collectively our full time employees spent over 725 hours last year volunteering outside of company time. Areas of involvement include reducing poverty and hunger, tackling environmental issues, improving health and education, providing meaningful outlets for youth, supporting church outreach programs, and donating skills and leadership to the promotional products industry through volunteer work at PPAI. Volunteer positions offer a chance for individuals to learn and grow by being involved in programs outside their normal professional or family life. It may provide a chance to demonstrate leadership and apply professional skills in a real life, hands-on setting. It can also be an opportunity for people of all walks of life to make connections that can lead to valuable introductions in the future.

Personal Volunteering

Andy Witt is one of our most active volunteers. We asked Andy his thoughts on the following: Your background is in accounting. Are you sharing these existing skills in your volunteerism, or do you find yourself contributing other talents? Do you feel you develop skills due to your involvement?

 “My first volunteer experience …somewhat selfishly, I chose to volunteer with Habitat for Humanity as we had just purchased our first home and I wanted to learn all that I could about home construction, maintenance etc. and thought I could help others at the same time.   Over the course of about 2 years, I worked with Habitat crews, met great people including the future home owners.   At the time, I’m sure I was thinking how I was making a difference in their lives, but now I know they changed mine as well.  I realized how truly fortunate my life had been (and is) and learned how important it was/is to give back to others.  I also learned how to install shingles, siding, drywall, insulation and more!”

“In some of my more recent and involved volunteer activities I have been “tapped” because of my accounting background and skills.   While I have been able to provide value and oversight, I have always found that I learn something in the process. Quite honestly, I think I prefer the volunteer opportunities that are outside of my accounting background.   Such as the mission trips I’ve taken to Back Bay Mission in Biloxi, MS.   Similar to Habitat, the work involves home building and remodeling projects.    Allows me to get out from behind a desk, help others and continue to learn new skills as well.   Very satisfying stuff! “

“In addition, there is very much a social side to volunteering.   Along the way, you meet and get to know a lot of interesting people.   Both the volunteers and those you are helping.   People you would not have otherwise met.   Because, you spend a fair amount of time with them, it affords opportunities to share experiences and really get to know them.  And have fun with them too!    The cool part is this all happens while you are helping others!”

MRF Team Volunteering

 As a company we work together donating time and physical resources to the United Way, Junior Achievement, and Smack Hunger, Say Cheese (Feeding America), and a local soup kitchen. Our active United Way program involves most of our full-time and seasonal staff. As a company we build trust between employees by working towards a common goal: bettering our community. We use a collaborative, fun approach to raise money through various creative events. When our fund-raising goal is met (we haven’t missed one in 5 years!) we celebrate our successes together. Our dollars go far to support charitable events in our community, and our employees have a chance to expand their organizational and leadership skills.

Our staff has been donating their time over the last few years to the Junior Achievement Program. They volunteer in community schools creating awareness of job-ready skills (communication, collaboration, critical thinking and conflict management.) They enjoy their time sharing their skills with the kids, and the students benefit from their mentoring.

Our Feeding America initiatives include company participation in raising money for food supplies and packaging food for people in need.  Collectively 60,000 meals were packaged for local food pantries.

The MRF team sponsors a night at a local soup kitchen where we prepare and serve food to less fortunate individuals in our community. Virginia Lemmer always offers her piano skills to provide dinner music for the event. We enjoy the chance to work together and to provide a healthy meal and chance to socialize for the disadvantaged  in our area.

Industry Volunteers

Four of our full time employees are active on PPAI committees. We asked Jodie Schillinger a couple of questions about her insights as co-chair of the PPAI Suppliers Committee.

Why do you think it is important to donate time to industry work?

“I do not think that I understood the scope of volunteering within the industry until I did it. Why share your time?  They need it!  Every event you are attending, there are busy volunteers behind closed doors making it happen.  We can take that for granted and continue to be unaware, or dive in and help out. Industry involvement encourages us to see a bigger picture and think more globally.”

What have you gained personally by serving on the Supplier committee?

“You definitely increase critical thinking skills, and understand new viewpoints. There are so many brilliant minds on our committee. Sharing is open, collaborative and focused. This elevated mindset leads to more connections, stronger people and stronger businesses! When we volunteer within our industry or anywhere else, we are choosing to make an impact and elevate one another. If we all turned a blind eye, how would we evolve?”

Join In!

Want to join in the volunteer movement? Start with your coworkers and community. Brainstorm opportunities to work together on a project. You will be amazed at the team-building exercise this can be while helping others. Do you want to donate time working online for organizations, or are you a hands-on person? There are plenty of opportunities out there for both.

Here are some organizations that are dedicated to finding volunteer positions:


PPAI offers numerous opportunities to help out in our industry.

Linkedin for Good

A volunteer marketplace that offers members an easy way to find fulling board and volunteer opportunities that fit their interests and expertise.

Volunteer Match

An online network which matches volunteers with local nonprofits.

United Way

Find your local United Way for volunteer opportunities in your area.



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