Virtual Volunteerism: Staying Connected to Our Community

Courtney McDade, Director, Public Affairs Programs, Independence Blue Cross, creates a sock monkey picture with her son while social distancing at home.

By Courtney McDade
Director, Public Affairs Programs
Independence Blue Cross

The COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented landscape, with government, health care, business and community leaders contending with new challenges every day. As members of the Greater Philadelphia Corporate Volunteer Council, we share a passion for making a positive impact in our communities through volunteerism and in supporting our nonprofit partners.

However, as a result of COVID-19, many of us have unfortunately had to postpone and cancel scheduled events, activities and initiatives. This comes at a time when the need for volunteers has never been higher, and as nonprofits struggle to meet increased demand for their services. There are no easy answers, but there is much to learn from our peers who are contending with the same issues.

At Independence Blue Cross, I am privileged to lead the efforts of the Blue Crew – our corporate volunteer program. For nearly 20 years, our employees have lived our mission — to enhance the health and well-being of the communities we serve — by volunteering with the Blue Crew. In response to COVID-19, Independence took an early and prominent leadership role to meet the needs of our members, customers, partners, employees and our community. Independence was proud to support the launch of the PHL COVID-19 Relief Fund to help ensure that the nonprofit organizations that serve our most vulnerable communities can continue to provide critical services.

To protect the health and safety of our workforce, we suspended many of our planned volunteer activities. However, our employees still want to help their communities, perhaps now more than ever. We have introduced virtual and remote volunteerism – showing our employees the many ways they can make a difference from home.

Looking for ways our employees can “virtually” volunteer, we are sensitive to the fact that many may be struggling with the demands of caring for their families while working remotely or experiencing other hardships. We are promoting a variety of independent volunteer activities, including resources for sewing face masks, virtual mentoring and scheduling support for local food distributors.

We have sought to include families in our volunteer activities. Recently, we introduced a new Blue Crew-led initiative, Sock Monkeys and Smiles — a campaign in partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities Philadelphia Region (RMHC). This project is a way for our Blue Crew to spread cheer and show support for families at Ronald McDonald House who are sheltering in place away from home as their children receive medical care at local hospitals. This builds upon our longstanding support for Ronald McDonald Houses throughout the region where we have been cooking and serving food for more than a decade.

Under the Sock Monkey and Smiles program, volunteers and their families color pictures of the Ronald McDonald House sock monkey mascot, Sidekick. Photos of the artwork, and the people who created them, are featured on Independence social media channels and posted throughout the Houses for families to enjoy.

We also launched a new virtual volunteer campaign to thank the region’s health care heroes working on the front lines at hospitals and other health care facilities. Our associates and their families are creating thank-you notes and photos for health care workers in a movement of collective support for our health care workforce. I encourage all of you and your employee volunteers to join us.

In speaking with many of you over the past month, I know that you also are working to empower your employees to respond during this crisis. I urge you to continue to share your efforts with the GPCVC so that we may support and learn from one another. Please do so by posting on our GPCVC LinkedIn page. Our continued collaboration will become more critical in the months ahead. I am hopeful that by working together, we can help advance solutions and leadership in helping our communities recover from this crisis.

Courtney McDade first joined Independence Blue Cross in January 2006 as a member of the Human Resources department. As Director of Public Affairs Programs, she supports Public Affairs operational activities and events and manages the Community Affairs department, including the Blue Crew corporate volunteer program and the employee giving campaign. In her role, she focuses on engaging employees and community partners in meaningful service projects that improve the health and well-being of our neighborhoods. Courtney received her bachelor’s degree in Business from Wake Forest University in 2005 and graduated with a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) from La Salle University in May 2016.

Independence Blue Cross has been a member of GPCVC since its founding in 2011.