BALTIMORE, Md. – At Municipal Employees Credit Union of Baltimore teamwork is an action verb. Everyone from staffers and senior management to board members, literally work together both in and out of work. "It started with establishing an employee enrichment committee to organize our first employee picnic," said MECU President/CEO Bert Hash. "We had mostly entry level employees working together to develop fun after hours activities and as part of that some of the group also became more involved in the community. So we split the two groups and the community outreach program grew from there." The outreach committee consists of about 12-15 employees holding various positions across several departments. Two people from senior management serve as advisors and the group meets regularly to decide which activities to participate in. Outreach team members organize frequent projects throughout the year. Charities are generally selected based on staffers' interests or personal connections. For example, the credit union became involved with Mothers Against Drunk Driving when one outreach committee member had a police officer friend killed by a drunk driver. Other projects have been part of the credit union's long term commitment to the community such as "adopting" a local school to help students with reading or providing computers and helping out at the downtown soup kitchen Our Daily Bread, which serves meals to over 60,000 of Maryland's homeless residents a year. "We really are quite a dynamic organization and our community outreach is a big draw for both our employees and members," said MECU Public Relations/Marketing Coordinator Dorothea Stierhoff. "It is not just talk when we say that we are committed to improving the quality of life in the communities in which our members live." According to Hash, the volunteering efforts payoff in other ways that help foster better relationships and interactions within the credit union. "It really lets people get to know each other outside of work and better understand each other," said Hash. "It builds on a team concept, encourages everyone to talk and that spills over into a team workflow process." Hash says that there has been such a buy-in from the board down, that employees insisted that volunteering becomes a part of their reviews. Employees are required to participate in at least one charitable organization to "meet expectations." Since his younger days Hash has always been involved with his community from youth clubs and nonprofit housing projects to job development and education. "I believe in the people helping people philosophy," said Hash. "We're very lucky here because our board of directors is very hands on locally and they lead by example. They insist that my monthly reports include our community involvement efforts and they are a big part of supporting and encouraging us to continue." Recently over 100 staffers fanned out to nine different non-profit agencies for a MECU Day of Caring. They were joined by board members who also roped in a few volunteers of their own, including 40 police cadets and 50 union staffers. While the board chairman was pushing a wheelbarrow, the vice chairman and his wife were busy cleaning up a yard and painting a mural. Hash admits that although he is better at demolition work than building he was still busy at the Sandtown Habitat for Humanity. According to Stierhoff this is the first time the credit union has attempted something on this scale but employees had only positive feedback and they managed to log over 1,000 volunteer hours in just one day. "Everyone feels good about themselves by giving back to others and believe me we wouldn't be as successful if the staff and board didn't take this effort to another level," said Hash. "What I also enjoy is that it gives me an opportunity to work side by side with people I don't normally get to interact with more than once a year at a luncheon or briefly in the halls. When we work together out here they can see I'm just a human being like everyone else." [email protected]

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