As soon as Jeff King joined Viacom more than a decade ago, he signed on for Viacommunity Day. His first project was installing flooring at a Gay Men’s Health Crisis facility in lower Manhattan. The following year, he contributed to a Project Sunshine event, building kits for sick children in hospitals.
But once a year didn’t quite feel like enough. “I wanted to do it more,” King says. “I wanted to make more of a difference.”
Enter God’s Love We Deliver. King saw the organization represented by Joan Rivers on Celebrity Apprentice, and he knew it would fit him perfectly. “Here was a place where I could have hands-on interaction with the client,” King explained. “You can actually see where the dollars are going for this charity, and that’s amazing.”
So every Friday since December 2009, regardless of what the fickle New York City weather assaults him with, King spends an hour delivering meals for God’s Love We Deliver, a grassroots organization that delivers food to homebound people too ill to shop or cook for themselves.
“My clients eat before I do,” King says. “I always make that a priority on Fridays.”
When the meals are ready, a dispatcher summons King to one of the organization’s distribution centers near Viacom’s global headquarters at 1515 Broadway. He visits three or four clients on a typical route. Deliveries follow strict protocol: no leaving food by the door if someone isn’t home (it’s perishable); no entering a client’s homes unless they invite you in; be patient as they’re coming to the door – some of them may fall if they feel as though they are being rushed.
But perhaps most importantly, he takes care of them before taking care of himself. “My clients eat before I do,” King says. “I always make that a priority on Fridays.”
King makes a point to call clients by their first name, a gesture that may mean more to them than the food itself. “It’s so much more than the food you deliver to them,” King says. “It’s companionship. They really have a sense of isolation with their illnesses, so when a familiar face knocks on their door, they just have a sense of relief. I walk away from that feeling fulfilled every time I do a delivery.”
But he’s not just delivering a single meal or a friendly word – the frozen meals he delivers provide food for the entire weekend.
Birthday deliveries are particularly rewarding, as God’s Love We Deliver makes sure to include a sheet cake in the client’s deliveries for that day. In some cases, it is the first birthday cake they’ve ever received. One client was so moved that he gave King a thank-you letter on a subsequent delivery.
Getting to those rewarding moments takes some grit. The organization’s training prepares volunteers to display a neutral reaction when a client first opens the door to avoid hurting or offending them, as they may be disfigured or unable to clean their home.
Perhaps the biggest challenge is the emotional sting of losing clients. For his first year, King had the same three clients every Friday, but they slowly began to drop away. “It’s sad when I do regular visits with repeat clients and all of a sudden they don’t appear on the schedule anymore,” he says. “Something happened and you never know quite what.”
Sometimes losing a client can be uplifting, however, as he watches them heal from week to week – answering the door themselves, for example, when an aide used to – until, one day, they no longer need the program.
The charity fits ideally with his travel schedule – as a member of Viacom’s Internal Audit, Compliance, and Strategic Business Practices Department focused on audits of Paramount Pictures and Viacom Media Networks, he is on the road approximately 20 to 30 percent of the work year. He sweeps out to Los Angeles, New Orleans, Atlanta, Vancouver, London , Berlin, Rome, or wherever his audits take him. King spends a lot of time on set for Paramount’s movies and VMN’s television productions, and was recently in Vancouver for Paramount’s next Star Trek movie and Rome for the Zoolander 2 shoot.
When King does miss a day for business travel or vacations, he makes it up by volunteering an extra day – he came in Christmas Eve 2015, a Thursday, even though he wasn’t working.
King’s commitment to Viacommunity hasn’t ebbed – he still participates in Viacommunity Day, typically with a beach or park clean-up near his home in New Jersey.
“I think that Viacom is a unique organization in that they encourage people to have compassion for those less fortunate, or people who have had a tragedy,” King says. “That’s one of their core values, and one of the things I’m most proud of about working here.”
Now in its 20th year Viacommunity, our social responsibility umbrella, has become more than just something we do – it is part of who we are, a core value of our company. To underscore how deeply embedded giving back is to our identity, the Viacom Blog is profiling 20 employees who embody the Viacommunity spirit in their everyday lives.