“If I could call this anything, it would be meat confetti.”

I can safely say it was one of the weirder sentences I have ever said on a Tuesday afternoon, but then again I have a strange sense of humour. At a time in the day when I should have been updating a weekly report, or having a water cooler discussion about the latest Star Wars theories, I was donating my time at a community kitchen during work hours.

In the past, Hanapin has supported local charity groups by organizing volunteering events and encouraging employee participation. These activities included helping with meal preparation at Hoosier Hills Food Bank and helping with a local fundraiser for the non-profit group, the CASA for Children. But after some reflection on the value of volunteering as a part of a healthy work-life balance, Hanapin decided to make a more meaningful commitment.

In July 2015, Hanapin welcomed a newly created policy. Every employee receives 8 hours of company time in a year to perform services at an organization of their choice. Another name for this type of policy is VTO, or Volunteer Time Off. For those that just can’t tear themselves away from their optimizations and SQRs, they can give those hours to a coworker to use instead.

The new volunteer policy was received with many surprised looks. It is rare to have a manager tell you that it is OK to take off for a few hours or a whole day to clean up a local park or work with kids in an after school program. However, the new policy was a reminder that we all have the power to make a great impact in our society, if we just carve out the time.

In addition to the yearly allotment of hours for community service, on Martin Luther King Day, Hanapin shut down the Bloomington Indiana office for an afternoon of public work. Each employee had a choice of 2 sessions out of 4 options that varied from traditional to more creative activities. For example, some sorted canned food donations at the Hoosier Hills Food Bank. Others painted a MLK themed mural for the be.CAUSE Art Gallery as a part of their ongoing mission to make art more accessible to the public.

Image of mural
Photo courtesy of beCAUSE bloomington

For the more sartorially minded, there was an opportunity to help sort through clothing donations for My Sisters Closet, a non-profit association that is dedicated to giving low-income women attire that is appropriate for the work place.

Lastly, others flexed their creative muscles and wove beautiful stars for an art installation called the “1 Million Stars to End Violence.” A Samoan-Australian artist by the name of Maryann Talia Pau is seeking 100 communities to commit to weave 10,000 stars each and the end result will be an art installation in Queensland, Australia. The Lotus Education & Arts Foundation was responsible for bringing the project to Bloomington, and the stars were patiently folded by hundreds of local citizens.

Image of weave message
Photo courtesy of Lotus

Which brings me to my contemplation about meat confetti. On a random Tuesday afternoon, a mini team of myself plus 2 other Hanapin colleagues spent 2 hours helping prepare the evening meal at Monroe County Community Kitchen. I was chopping ham into tiny cubes for soup that night and for pie the next day and to pass the time, I was thinking of alternative names for these chunks of pork. How would I rebrand these nuggets of meat, and much like rewriting ad copy, not all our ideas were good. For example, pork glitter and ham sprinkles were dismissed quickly, but I feel pretty lucky to work for a company that gives me the freedom to brainstorm about ham while helping out others.