Unity Spans the Globe for Viacommunity Day’s 21st Year

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom

Lisa Di Venuta contributed reporting.

In an enormous show of support for local communities around the world, more than 4,000 Viacom employees threw themselves into the 21st annual Viacommunity Day last Friday. It was themed as a day of unity, bringing employees from every part of the company together at more than 150 projects sites across the United States and more than a dozen other nations, a collective effort that underscored Viacom’s unwavering dedication to putting our resources, skills, energies and collective will toward improving our communities.

“Viacommunity has a long legacy with our company,” said Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish, standing among a group of employees outside of a Boys & Girls Club in New Rochelle, 20 miles north of Times Square in the New York City suburbs. “I remember when I joined the company in 1997 in the early days of Viacommunity, and it’s always been a day, throughout different management teams, throughout different phases of the media business, where we would take a day and allow people to give back to their communities. This is all evidence that communities matter. That’s what Viacommunity is all about.”

 

Viacommunity Day 2017 Recap Video from Viacom on Vimeo.

Support for the effort transcended our employee ranks, reaching into the celebrity Twittersphere:

Events began early in the morning, spreading west from our outposts in Asia and Australia and following the sun across Europe and Africa and then jumping the Atlantic. The Viacommunity spirit rippled from the five boroughs of New York City and across the suburbs, west to Tennessee and finally California, where Paramount locked in the Viacommunity Day Cup for the second consecutive year.

Below is just a small sampling of the energy, enthusiasm, and effort that our volunteers injected into their communities over the course of a single day.

A Viacom employee gets psyched for Viacommunity Day 2017 in front of Viacom's Times Square headquarters.

A Viacom employee gets psyched for Viacommunity Day 2017 in front of 1515 Broadway.

CALIFORNIA – Paramount Repeats as Viacommunity Day Cup Champions

With the highest percentage of employees participating in Viacommunity Day out of any Viacom division, Paramount locked in the Viacommunity Day Cup for the second consecutive year. Employees had spent the past 12 months passing their prize around, Stanley Cup style, with different groups holding the trophy for a week at a time. Taking the cup again is a testament to how deeply entrenched the Viacommunity spirit is on the lot, where longstanding relationships with local schools and organizations fuse with individual efforts to create an atmosphere rich with giving.

The Fulfillment Fund

The commitment was evident on Paramount’s Hollywood lot on Friday morning, when a bus pulled in to pick up more than two dozen employee volunteers. It was already loaded with 25 students and four chaperones from Alexander Hamilton High School in west Los Angeles. They were headed six miles south, beneath the 10 freeway and to the campus of the University of Southern California (USC). On a separate bus, 25 Viacom employees were heading in the same direction from the company’s shiny new Hollywood building, stopping to pick up an additional 17 students from Helen Bernstein High School before rendezvousing at the university.

The Fulfillment Fund, an organization that focuses on orienting high-risk students toward college, was way ahead of both groups. They’d set up a unique tour: a campus-wide scavenger hunt for groups of students and volunteer mentors to navigate together. What’s the name of the campus bookstore? Which year was the arts building dedicated? Which years did USC football win the Rose Bowl? Four versions of the hunt helped to disperse the laughing, giddy students across the hot campus and avoid overcrowding at any one site.

Among the Viacom and Paramount volunteers were seven USC alumni and at least two graduates of Hamilton High School. Site captain Lori Nakama, a director of creative services for digital and television distribution in home media who was participating in her seventh Viacommunity Day, was among them.

“This is one of my favorite days of the year,” she said. “I love getting to work with people in the company that I don’t normally get to talk to. We’re so busy here that, a lot of times, I don’t leave my desk. So I don’t get to meet somebody who works in theatrical, or in finance, or in theatrical finance. So at Viacommunity Day, you not only are building a community within the community, but a community within the company.”

APLA Food Bank

Elsewhere in Los Angeles, a team of 38 volunteers staked out a warehouse distribution center that serves several branches of the APLA Food Bank. Here, corporate donations, store contributions, and imperfect fruits and vegetables from produce distributors arrive daily for sorting. On a typical day, there are two volunteers. But with 19 times that, the team was able to split into squads to handle deep cleaning of freezers and offices, while other groups organized the food.

“The energy level didn’t dip the entire day, even though it was exhausting work,” said Patrick Bynum, a senior vice president of human resources. He has been working with APLA for more than 30 years, since AIDS took hold in Los Angeles and the organization was among the first to really combat it. “I think we lose perspective, especially in entertainment. We live in a little bubble, where we get lots of perks and a lot of people who don’t work in entertainment think it’s sexy and fun to work around all these creative, talented people, which is true. But there’s so much more going on out there that’s impactful, and taking a day to get a look at the hardships that affect many people, and trying to help with those hardships, is important.”

Other L.A.-based employees volunteered at the Gentle Barn, among many other sites:

NEW YORK CITY AREA – Sunny Spring Greets Legions of Volunteers

With thousands of employees working out of a pair of Times Square skyscrapers and another building downtown, along with smaller facilities around Manhattan and a broadcast center in Hauppauge on Long Island, Viacom is richly represented in what is known locally as the tri-state area – Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.

After a gloomy, rain-soaked week, the sun broke over the New York region Friday morning, infusing Viacommunity Day with an intoxicating springtime energy. From Stamford down through Westchester, within all five boroughs of New York City and east to Long Island beaches, and west out to hilly New Jersey, Viacom employees halted their typical Friday routines. They spent the day in the sun, in animal shelters, in kitchens, trading keyboards for paintbrushes or serving spoons or bags of mulch.

Connecticut

Mill River Park Collaborative

Viacom CEO Bob Bakish started his day alongside 18 volunteers who were assisting the Mill River Park Collaborative in downtown Stamford, Connecticut. The organization aspires to create a riverside greenway running from north of the city all the way down to Long Island Sound, and the volunteers were clearing plots for native plants along the Mill River’s bank. By testing different flora in each bed, the organization hopes to determine the optimal makeup of this green thoroughfare.

Project captain Lou Converse, an assistant treasurer who has been volunteering at Viacommunity Days since the inaugural event in 1996, has sponsored a project in conjunction with the collaborative for four consecutive years. Like many of the volunteers up in the suburbs, she lives nearby.

“The whole group really enjoyed the work and the fellowship at the end,” she said. “Nothing beats getting out on a beautiful day and doing some work and having some fun.”

The team wrapped up their effort with a lunch spread on a lawn beneath a flowering shade tree, with sandwiches, chips, fruit, soda, water – and a well-earned beer.

Viacom enjoying the fruits of their labor! Happy #viacommunityday2017 everyone. That sun did come out after all!

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Kids in Crisis

In nearby Cos Cob, approximately 10 volunteers were gardening, weeding, and clipping hedges on the campus of Kids in Crisis, an organization that helps Connecticut residents through neglect, abuse, and other crises. The team, a lively group that had united from Ad Sales, MTV production, and other areas, also scrubbed playground furniture and painted bookcases.

“Everyone was excited to do something new and meet new people, but it offered a lot of perspective,” said Kate Laverge, a senior vice president of communications and culture, who was heading the event for the second year in a row after connecting Viacommunity with the organization. “We all get caught up in our day-to-day lives, and doing something where you can see the immediate impact on children and families there is really nice. That Viacom is doing something for kids instills a sense of loyalty in me that the company is investing in something that I care so much about.”

Bakish rolled into this site next, putting a power sander to a bookcase before touring the facility and meeting some of the more than one dozen children that live on the campus at any given time.

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish sands a bookcase alongside Investor Relations' Kareem Chin at a Kids in Crisis in Cos Cob, Connecticut on Viacommunity Day 2017.

Viacom President and CEO Bob Bakish sands a bookcase at a Kids in Crisis in Cos Cob, Connecticut on Viacommunity Day 2017.

There turned out to be more work than hours allotted to do it in, and several volunteers stayed on into the afternoon to help finish up. Many plan to return outside of the purview of Viacommunity to help throughout the year.

Westchester

Boys & Girls Club of New Rochelle

Just a few miles across the Connecticut border, Bakish stopped by the Boys & Girls Club of New Rochelle, where he joined approximately 17 volunteers, a mix of locals, employees who had come up from The Bronx, and a few alumni of local colleges. With Bruno Mars blasting over the speakers, he grabbed a paintbrush and got to work.

“I love seeing all the employees working together,” Bakish said. “This is the third place I’ve been today, and you pull up and all of a sudden you see the teal shirts, and it’s just a cool thing. And you see the same thing at every site, where it’s just people digging in and doing stuff. It’s not what we usually do. We’re exercising different muscles today. I always say to the site captains, ‘Work them hard, this is good for them.’”

Melissa Luzzi, executive assistant to Scott Mills, lives in New Rochelle and was leading the project for the second consecutive year. Her 12-year-old son plays on a football program run by the center, so she sees up close how heavily the center is used – 140 students come by every day after school – and how vital outside assistance is to their operations.

Luzzi had coordinated with club director Nate Adams in advance to identify the organization’s most pressing needs. This year, that included painting interior hallways and picking up 10 black contractor trash bags around the complex. When one of the volunteers saw the graffiti-scrawled exterior wall of the complex, she rushed home to grab her power washer.

“I think a lot of people always want to volunteer, but they don’t really know how to do it,” said Luzzi. “And Viacommunity Day encourages them to get out there and do things that they probably ordinarily wouldn’t do. And it gives them an excuse to a) be out of the office, and, b) to actually feel good about doing things. We had people in tears when Nate was talking to them about how the Boys Club serves these kids.”

Viacom employees helped spruce up the Boys & Girls Club of New Rochelle, New York at Viacommunity Day 2017.

Viacom employees helped spruce up the Boys & Girls Club of New Rochelle, New York at Viacommunity Day 2017.

Graham Windham

Not everyone who volunteered in the suburbs lives there. Gwendolyn Myles, a legal assistant with labor and employement, had taken the train up to Hastings-on-Hudson from Queens to spend the day at Graham Windham, a school that hosts 120 resident children from kindergarten through 12th grade.

The kids, many of whom came from hardscrabble backgrounds but aspire to be teachers or doctors, worked alongside a dozen Viacom employees outside, painting 15 picnic tables that the students could use on nice days.

Viacom volunteers teamed up with Graham Windham students to paint picnic tables at Viacommunity Day 2017.

Viacom volunteers teamed up with Graham Windham students to paint picnic tables at Viacommunity Day 2017.

“The energy was amazing,” said Myles, a parent, grandparent, great-grandparent and long-time volunteer with both Viacommunity and Big Brothers Big Sisters. “It was a worthwhile project to me because it helps kids. I really believe in programs to help kids get back to society when sometimes they’re dealt a bad hand.”

This was Bakish’s fourth and last stop of the day, and he lingered for a couple of hours talking with employees and students.

Long Island

Robert Moses State Park

East of the city, on Long Island, approximately 60 volunteers gathered at Robert Moses State Park, which is perched on a thin island connected to the mainland by a causeway. Other than a few surfers nosing into the water, the crew had the beach to themselves on that April weekday.

The volunteers split into teams. Some picked up litter, while others painted lifeguard chairs or the markings in one of the disabled parking lots. A considerable number focused on planting a butterfly garden, an expansive endeavor that required first putting shrubs and plants in place, and then erecting protective fencing to keep out the deer that are ubiquitous on the island.

“Yes, it’s a day at the beach, but everyone is working very hard and we got a tremendous amount accomplished,” said John Decristofaro, assistant international controller in the international accounting group, who lives nearby and uses the park often in the summer, hanging out on the beach and walking down to the Fire Island lighthouse.

After volunteering at the park for several years, he had a familiarity with the site’s needs that inspired him to become a captain. “Everyone’s pretty well-worn when the day is done, but very happy at the end, and it’s really cool to come back and see the work you’ve done, and say, ‘I painted this’ or ‘I did this.’”

New Jersey

Monmouth Conservation Foundation

South of the city, in New Jersey’s rolling tree-green hills, approximately 25 employees cleared land on the grounds of a Middletown home under the purview of the Monmouth Conservation Foundation (MCF) land conservancy.

Site captain Leslie Mckernan, who had led a crew who cleaned out gardens at the same site in 2016, was participating in her seventh Viacommunity Day. A runner and race director for 15k and 5k events that wind through land that MCF protects, she is deeply committed to the organization’s ongoing work.

“Our race course is through hills and farms and wooded area, and really, it’s beautiful,” she said. “People are trying to keep this area beautiful, and I’m very happy that I’m able to help and that Viacom is able to help as well.”

New Jersey

Viacom volunteers in front of the gorgeous New Jersey terrain they helped keep pristine at Viacommunity Day 2017.

Mckernan, an executive assistant in legal, also appreciates Viacom’s willingness to spread out across the region for this one day, giving a reprieve to the many mega-commuters who ride trains, buses and ferries into Manhattan daily. “I think it’s important that we have those choices,” she said. 

Manhattan

Animal Haven

In Manhattan’s China Town neighborhood, three ancient walk-up buildings on the corner of Centre and Hester streets had recently been combined and refurbished to create a space for the homeless cats and dogs of Animal Haven. Inside, to a cacophonous barking background, a team of teal-shirted Viacom employees ran squeegees over the windows and scrubbed the floors of the reception area – the “the human area” in shelter-speak.

Site captain and Viacom Velocity project manager Taryn Koslow was among them. An animal lover who had volunteered with Meals on Wheels last Viacommunity Day, she was acting as captain for the 14-person team. “I love the wide variety of projects that Viacommunity offers, from planting trees to helping animals to bagging lunches to helping veterans,” she said.

The facility was bursting with animals, a half dozen rooms of cats upstairs and dogs downstairs, every pen taken. In a cage-lined room downstairs, Kassie Deng and Flora Fuks were scrubbing out cages while other volunteers walked their occupants along Chinatown’s frenetic morning streets.

“The cats kind of stole my heart,” said Fuks, who is a coordinator in BALA and already has one cat living in her Brooklyn apartment. “I promised my boyfriend I wouldn’t bring another cat home.”

“I need to understand all the responsibilities that go with owning a pet,” said Deng, who is considering adopting a dog. “And this is a good reminder that it’s not just dog walks, it’s work too.”

Veterinary care, utility bills and animal vaccinations consume much of the shelter’s budget, so they rely heavily on volunteers. The influx of extra workers for Viacommunity Day meant the dogs and cats got extra attention – a rarity for animals that live with dozens of their barking, meowing cousins. And the extra hands could help transport the dogs en masse up to a large space where they could run around together and play.

“Not only does this benefit the community, but it’s a great team-building event,” said Mantat Wuong, director of operations at Animal Haven, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary of helping care for New York’s homeless pets.

The crew at Animal Haven was one of many that turned their attentions to shelter pets on Friday:

Viacom volunteers walk Human Society dogs through Manhattan for Viacommunity Day 2017.

Viacom volunteers walk Human Society dogs through Manhattan for Viacommunity Day 2017.

Henry Street Settlement

A 20-minute walk uptown, a florid garden and brickwork terrace hung off the back of the unassuming façade of one of 17 outposts of the Henry Street Settlement that are scattered across the East Village and the Lower East Side.

Fifteen volunteers moved purposefully about the courtyard with brooms and shovels and bags of mulch. Viacom had provided all of the supplies and coordinated their arrival so that the team could get directly to work in the morning. They’d made impressive progress by 11 a.m., with newly planted flowers peaking from the gardens and fresh woodchips lining the gardens in neat geometries.

Viacom employees planted flowers and fixed up the grounds for the 59 residents at Henry Street Settlement's 3rd Street location in Manhattan at Viacommunity Day 2017.

Viacom employees planted flowers and fixed up the grounds for the 59 residents at Henry Street Settlement’s 3rd Street location in Manhattan at Viacommunity Day 2017.

“It’s nice seeing the before and the after,” said project captain Katie Knorr, a director of digital analytics for Nickelodeon who lives in the neighborhood and was moved to support an organization that is so vital to its civic fabric.

This was her second consecutive year supporting Henry Street, and her ninth Viacommunity Day overall. “It hits you afterward how quickly we all came together to do it,” she said. “It’s one of my favorite parts of working at Viacom, and it’s one of my favorite days of the year.”

Chloe Gingrich, a manager of marketing operations at Viacom Velocity, was sweeping debris from around a treewell. She had ridden her bicycle down from the Upper East Side and echoed a sentiment common among Viacommunity Day participants: “It’s so nice meeting different people from all over the company, hearing what they do, hearing their stories, hearing the people who live here’s stories and being part of something that’s bigger than us.”

Chloe Gingrich, left, and site captain Katie Knorr, center, joined other Viacom employees in fixing up the garden at Henry Street Settlement in the East Village at Viacommunity Day 2017.

Chloe Gingrich, left, and site captain Katie Knorr, center, joined other Viacom employees in fixing up the garden at Henry Street Settlement in the East Village at Viacommunity Day 2017.

Henry Street has served the neighborhood since 1893, when clotheslines swung overhead and pushcarts sold heaped vegetables on cobblestone streets. Founded by an Upstate transplant named Lillian Wald, the organization at first focused on providing health services. Over time, they added health and wellness, education and employment, transitional and supportive housing, and performing arts, becoming a vital component of the neighborhood’s social machinery. The location on East 3rd Street, where the Viacom crew labored that day, houses 59 residents.

As deeply embedded as the organization is in the life and history of the neighborhood, they are still in constant need of additional hands.

“We don’t have the capacity to do these sort of separate projects on our own, because we have very limited resources, so the only way we can maintain these spaces for our clients is through volunteers,” said Becker Rosales, a Henry Street representative who was overseeing the work. “When we think about the Lower East Side, we think about an area that is very up and coming, but the truth is that there is a lot of income disparity, there’s a lot of poverty, and the services that we provide are needed in this area, so we’re really grateful that Viacom would come work with us.”

A few blocks away, a large group of employees was busy at Tompkins Square Park:

The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project is the leading national organization for crisis intervention and suicide prevention services for LGBT adolescents from age 13 to 24. Founded in 1998, The Trevor Project operates as a lifeline for LGBT youth, with crisis-intervention services, a social network, and other resources. Most Trevor Project employees are volunteers.

After painting and hanging picture frames at the organization’s Los Angeles office on Viacommunity Day last year, Viacom again partnered with the Trevor Project, this time at their New York office.

Working in two shifts, Viacom volunteers painted the break room, employee offices and the call center at organization’s Times Square office. The relaxing and uplifting palette consisted of orange hues, which matched The Trevor Project’s trademark colors.

Viacom Marketing Director Meredith Kohlbecker was excited to help the cause. “Most of us are on a team together and we planned this as a group,” said Kohlbecker. “It’s good to know we can help in some way. I know it can be hard to find a way to help these youths, but we’re at the source of where the helping hands are.”

Jenna Guntmacher agreed with this sentiment. “I appreciated [the organization’s] deep overview on The Trevor Project,” said Guntmacher. “Knowing we’re going to help people have a better day is important. Having a homey environment makes such a difference.”

Employees respond more to bright colors than clinical walls, according to Richard L. Vargas, the office administrator. And helping employees by brightening their workspace is crucial to helping the LGBT youth at the other end of the crisis intervention hotline. Viacom’s role in beautifying the Trevor Project doesn’t end with the painting – the company also donated money to buy picture frames and new clocks for the office.

The Trevor Project’s original mission statement is engraved on a glass star in the office: “Imagine a future where the Trevor Project No Longer Exists.”

Before they left, employee volunteers wrote positive sentiments about the day on pieces of orange paper, to leave their mark of love and acceptance. The office was vibrant and full of positive energy left over from employee volunteers.

International Medical Corps

Back uptown at 1515 Broadway, the normally bustling lobby was strangely calm. In the White Box, a cavernous space just off the back set of elevators, however, a team of more than 75 energetic volunteers had assembled 250 hygiene kits – soap, towels, toothpaste, razors, toothbrushes, combs, and more – for struggling families in Nigeria. Viacom teamed up with Los Angeles-based humanitarian organization International Medical Corps, which has served millions of people in more than 70 nations, on the project.

“I have been feeling kind of helpless in the current political climate, and I wanted to do something that impacts the world on a larger scale, and be able to help somebody in just a tiny, tiny way that is going to make a world of difference for them,” said project team co-leader Madeline Smith, a broadcast operations coordinator at Nickelodeon.

“This is such a great use of our time,” said project team co-leader Tina Cherrillo, a movie advertising production assistant with Nickelodeon. “I love being able to take a break and be able to help somebody while doing it.”

The kits had already been packed away in several large boxes, and sat awaiting their shipment across the Atlantic. Elaine Benditson, a senior development officer at International Medical Corps, was helping the team take group shots and tidy up the room.

“Viacom is such a wonderful friend to International Medical Corps,” she said. “This shows that there’s heart and soul to Viacom, and they care about the community. Not just the local community, and not just their employee community – they care about the global community.”

 

Free Arts NYC

Just upstairs, on the seventh floor, a large section of the Lodge cafeteria seating area was cordoned off for an art party. Fifty employees, bent and paint-splotched, decorated paper grocery bags. Finished bags hung drying in the sun on the large east-facing windows, a visual testament to employee creativity – florid designs and elaborate patterns and a few characters from popular Viacom shows, including Daria and SpongeBob.

Viacommunity Day Art Samples - 824

Samples of art created by Viacom employees in conjunction with Free Arts NYC for Viacommunity Day 2017.

Some employees had cranked out as many as seven bags. Free Arts NYC, an organization that works with homeless and under-served children in all five boroughs of New York City, will distribute the bags at free arts days, where kids create artwork alongside adult volunteers.

“The kids really do treasure these bags,” said Chelsea Donahue, a program manager with Free Arts. “Sometimes they end up on the wall as artwork. Our program wouldn’t be able to exist without corporate sponsorship, so this is a great event, where kids benefit, volunteers benefit, and it helps fund our other programs that are free to all of our kids.”

At the painting tables, a spirit of bold experimentation prevailed. “I have not picked up a paintbrush in many many years, except to maybe paint a wall,” said Sharika De Freitas, who works in the legal litigation group and was captaining the event as part of her first Viacommunity Day. “Seeing how surprisingly creative people are has been a highlight – we have a lot of talented people in this company. It was also heartening to see how many people showed up.”

Viacom employees create art in conjunction with Free Arts NYC for Viacommunity Day 2017.

Viacom employees create art in conjunction with Free Arts NYC for Viacommunity Day 2017.

Legal Services NYC

Up in the 31st floor Sky Square, in a south-facing room offering skyscraper-studded views downtown, a dozen Viacom lawyers were applying their legal skills to a cause decidedly outside of entertainment: an intake clinic for foreign citizens who wish to begin the U.S. naturalization process.

Viacom attorneys worked in pairs with Gibson Dunn attorneys. Tables of three – two lawyers and one citizen hopeful – dotted the large room. Sometimes a translator joined them. Viacom volunteers, primed by an overview from Legal Services NYC, helped them fill out intake forms, reviewed paperwork and eligibility status, and helped with naturalization paperwork. It’s a straightforward process, allowing the lawyers to achieve something concrete in a short amount of time. Promising cases are typically forwarded to Legal Services NYC to process from there.

“These are people who have green cards or are permanent residents, who, because of the uncertainty of the times, want to make sure they can stay here legally,” said site captain Sarah Harp, a vice president and senior council in corporate transactions and securities who helped organize the event and was participating in her 11th Viacommunity Day. “We want to help those people who may find the process overwhelming and talk them through it, break it down for them. Seeing people’s faces who come in intimidated, based on the climate in the country right now, and then you tell them that they have a really good case to be naturalized, you see them go from trepidation and fear to relief.”

Viacom’s legal team runs pro bono events throughout the year, and has hosted similar clinic in the past for abused women and for children applying for asylum.

“We could donate our money, but by donating our time we are providing a service and a skillset that no one other than lawyers can provide,” said Katie Marquart, pro bono council at global law firm Gibson Dunn, which partners frequently with Viacom and dedicates significant resources – 131 hours per attorney last year alone – to pro bono work.

“By doing pro bono work,” Marquart continued, “it’s a reminder of why we all became lawyers in the first place, and the power that the law has to really transform someone’s life. These are people who don’t have the ability to afford an attorney on their own, and you’re able to truly change their life – they’re going to go from someone who’s here on a temporary status to someone who’s a citizen.”

Off the higher west-facing windows at 1515 Broadway, you can spot the Intrepid docked in the Hudson River. The World War II-era aircraft carrier is now a stunning aviation museum, whose collection includes fighter jets, a submarine, and even a retired NASA space shuttle. Viacommunity volunteers go there every year to help clean the collection:

Viacom employees were busy all over Manhattan on Viacommunity Day. One of the fastest to fill sites each year is, unsurprisingly, Central Park:

#viacommunityday2017 #mulching #centralpark

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Brooklyn

BUILD NYC

Just over the river in Brooklyn, a team of Viacom employees assembled at BUILD NYC, an organization that helps low-income high school students become entrepreneurs. The volunteers were experts in marketing, Power Point, and information technology – essential skills for nearly any 21st century business start-up.

This was the first year Viacom worked with BUILD NYC for Viacommunity Day, and program director April Wilson says she was thrilled with the results of this partnership between the volunteers and the students at Brooklyn’s High School for Innovation in Advertising and Media.

“I’d absolutely like to do Viacommunity Day again,” said Wilson. “It was a great experience. One of the best things about bringing in Viacom volunteers is it’s an opportunity for students to network, and see different job functions.”

The volunteers sat with the students and reviewed their development action plan—the itinerary they’d use to organize tasks and deadlines for marketing their products.

“The products have already launched,” said Wilson. “Volunteers were able to see what the students had produced.”

One Viacom employee, Tierney Cooke, works as a manager of partner marketing. She helped a student work on their plan to pitch “Sneaker Protocol,” a product intended to help people care for their shoes by keeping them clean and dry.

Another student was working on a personal hygiene kit for people on the go; consisting of portable toiletries such as deodorant and baby wipes.

Our volunteers provided special attention to each student in order to help them create an inimitable sales pitch.

Alexandra Villella works in product management and video translation, and has expertise in Power Point. She showed students a Power Point presentation she created, which helped them understand how to best utilize the tool. Villella also gave students feedback on how to make their projects stand out, and provided individual attention to the students who created each slide.

“Many volunteers were helpful,” said Wilson, “By giving students email addresses to follow up with.”

Business Analyst Director of Corporate Systems Jennifer Brant-Gargan has a background in information technology (IT), and focused on giving students advice about IT and financial projections for their products.

The students will present their work at the Business Plan Competition semi-finals on May 17, where they will be judged by experts in the local business community on their product’s ability to solve problems and make a profit.

The BUILD NYC project was just one of many in Brooklyn, which is home to a large number of Viacom employees. Teal shirts flooded several sites around the borough on Friday.

Prospect Park:

Pitch, please. We got this. (Posing for our upcoming album cover) #TurnUpForGod #viacommunityday2017

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Cobble Hill:

#viacommunityday #ViaCommunityDay2017

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Queens

Astoria Park

At 9:30 a.m., more than 40 Viacom employees arrived at Astoria Park, the 60-acre, scenic communal space along the west shore of Queens. Volunteers weren’t phased by the 85-degree temperatures as they powered through projects with a panoramic view of Manhattan skyscrapers across the river.

For the fourth consecutive year, Viacommunity volunteers were here to spruce up the local land. City Parks Foundation outreach coordinator Alicia Raeburn explained the day’s itinerary.

“We’re trying to restore this whole area,” said Raeburn, indicating the western-most section of the park near the Hell’s Gate Bridge. “We usually work on the other side of the park. This year we wanted to focus on this side.” Volunteers painted benches, raked leaves, and spread mulch.

“Every year, employees come back and walk by the benches they painted last year,” said Raeburn. “They see how their work looks; it’s had a nice lasting effect.”

Many employees chose this site because it was close to home, like Comedy Central designer Jillian Egan and human resources manager Erica Romero.

“I love this park,” said Romero, while painting a 15-foot light post. “I’ve volunteered here for previous Viacommunity Days. It’s cool, next time I come through the park I’m going to look at this light post, and think, ‘I painted that.’”

Many volunteers noted the natural beauty of the park, and how they wanted to maintain it for local residents and tourists.

By 11:30 it was clear how much progress had already been made to rejuvenate the local gem. “It’s come full-circle,” said Raeburn, as volunteers continued sweeping and raking away debris.

The Viacommunity spirit spread to several sites around the borough on Friday, including this project with Trees NY:

TENNESSEE – Viacommunity Is a Perfect Fit for the Volunteer State

Several hundred miles and a time zone west, 90 Viacom employees from the company’s Nashville and Franklin offices spread out over nine projects. They undertook an impressive variety of initiatives: assembling snack packs for homeless youth, organizing donations and making meals at local homeless shelters, mulching the trails at Radnor Lake, socializing with the animals and cleaning kennels at the Humane Association, visiting with the elderly and helping garden on the residents’ patio at the Morningside Assisted Living Facility, landscaping at Thistle Farms residences, and clearing new trails at Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary.

Viacom employees did some heavy lifting at Safe Haven Nashville for Viacommunity Day 2017.

Viacom employees did some heavy lifting at Safe Haven Nashville for Viacommunity Day 2017.

Rachael Wall and Ellen Crowley joined a group at the Nashville Food Project, an ambitious multi-purpose food-sharing cooperative nestled in a residential neighborhood behind a local church.

A group of nine employees weeded, composted and planted in the community gardens under clear skies – a relief after a string of rainy Viacommunity Days in Tennessee. Pulling weeds from the carrot bed, they mingled with the refugees who partially make their living by growing vegetables in the gardens and selling them in local farmer’s markets.

Viacom employees helped the Nashville Food Project maintain their gardens at Viacommunity Day 2017.

Viacom employees helped the Nashville Food Project maintain their gardens at Viacommunity Day 2017.

They chose the project not just because it was outdoors and close to their respective homes, but also because they deeply admire the organization’s mission. Crowley had worked with them in college and was eager to team up with them again.

“I really like their mission, and the fact that it’s so close to where I live means that I can take part in my own community,” said Crowley, a coordinator in CMT Public Affairs. “I started at Viacom the week of Viacommunity Day, and that’s always stuck out in my mind as such a core part of the company. Not only do I get to serve with people from CMT and from the Franklin office, but I get to go and serve the community as well and have an impact.”

Viacommunity Day is a bit addictive, often inspiring independent action outside of its well-defined activities. That is due to the visceral nature of the encounters volunteers stumble into while raking debris or serving mashed potatoes. One volunteer at the Nashville Rescue Mission was invited to stay for graduation, and witnessed an emotional, tear-jerker of a ceremony, rich with stories of triumph and renewal. A visitor to Morningside Assisted Living exclaimed that she, “now had two grandmas” after bonding with a woman at the center. Wall and Crowley had an expansive, illuminating conversation with a Kenyan who taught English to immigrants in the church across the yard from the Nashville Food Project.

“Every group had some really special moment or something they wanted to share that made them feel inspired or grateful for the experience,” said Wall, a manager in CMT Public Affairs. “A lot of people wanted to continue to work with these places and stay involved.”

Last week happened to be Wall’s first at Viacom, and the day of giving back turned out to be a great social primer and introduction to Viacom values. “It was really cool, not only to do the good work we were all able to do with the community, but to meet people in different departments and talk to them and bond over a shared experience is really special.”

Here’s a glimpse at a few other projects happening around Nashville last week:

Nashville Oasis Center:

Such a great morning repping @cmt and @viacom at #viacommunityday2017 at Nashville’s Oasis Center!

A post shared by Rory Levine (@rorylevine) on

Radnor Lake:

Viacommunity Day at Radnor Lake. Mulching the trails and enjoying the wildlife. #viacommunityday2017 @j_blake_smith

A post shared by Chris Hellmann (@hellmacs) on

Thistle Farms:

Great volunteer day @thistlefarms for #viacommunityday2017! @Viacom @cmt @viacommunity #loveheals #thistlefarms

A post shared by Sheridan Grime (@shergrime) on

MIAMI – Hitting the Beach with Purpose

Miami, headquarters of Viacom’s Latin America operations, was also busy on Viacommunity Day:

Each year Viacom closes our offices around the world to give back #viacommunityday2017 #viacommunityday #miamibeach

A post shared by Mario Cader-Frech (@mariocader) on

Restoring the sand dunes on a beautiful April day with @surfridermiami. #ViacommunityDay2017 #Miami #Florida #Beach

A post shared by David Felipe Campos (@magicdave1983) on

INTERNATIONAL – Getting the Giving Started While the U.S. Is Still Asleep

Viacom has offices all over the world, and our employees embrace Viacommunity Day with an infective enthusiasm. Even some of our newest additions, who joined us when Viacom acquired Argentinian broadcaster Telefe last year, eased into the day as though they’d been doing it for years:

#viacommunityday2017 #Telefe #Argentina

A post shared by Sabri Germ (@sabrigerm) on

Here’s a look at how other Viacom employees gave back in other markets around the world:

Australia

MTV and Comedy Central fired the starting gun on a 12-month partnership with national youth mental health foundation Headspace, while Nickelodeon turned its kid-centric focus to the non-profit Kids Help Line. The VIMN Shared Services team, meanwhile, donated all proceeds from Wesley Connect’s novel $10 challenge – in which volunteers try to purchase enough food from the local supermarket to feed a family for three days on just $10 – back to the organization.

China

Viacom staff in Beijing interacted with autistic children at Xingxingyu Special Education, helping to care for them and tending to daily chores.

Hong Kong

The Hong Kong team prepared, served and delivered more than 1,000 meals to low-income and elderly people alongside People’s Food Bank.

Japan

In a partnership with the Shanti Volunteer Association, Viacom employees in Tokyo collected picture books for children in overseas refugee camps.

Malaysia

Viacom’s Kuala Lumpur employees visited a local community center, where they played with and read to underprivileged children.

Philippines

Employees from Viacom’s Manila office cleaned up beaches in Barangay San Juan, Ternate and Cavite in a partnership with the Office of the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources.

Singapore

Singapore employees split their energies between preparing meals at the Willing Hearts soup kitchen, maintaining and interacting with Uncle Khoe’s K9 shelter, and cleaning up Coney Island Park and East Coast Park.

UK

As usual, our London-based employees spread across the city to undertake a variety of projects.

Hestia Charity:

Viacom employees in the U.K. Spent the day w/ @hestia_charity at a North London refuge this #viacommunityday2017!

A post shared by Viacommunity (@viacommunity) on

Brixton Soup Kitchen:

Battersea Park Children’s Zoo:

To learn more about Viacommunity, click here.

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