“You are never too young to give.” These were the words that DISCO co-founder and Executive Sponsor of DISCO Cares Kent Radford, shared with me recently, and I couldn’t agree more.
Every company, regardless of size, type, industry, or financial status should give back to its community. The reasons are simple: first, giving promotes employee engagement, morale, and performance. In a Deloitte Impact survey, 92% of respondents reported that volunteering expands an employee’s professional skill set. We see this firsthand at DISCO, as employees of all levels stretch their communication, interpersonal, and leadership skills during DISCO Cares projects.
Secondly and more importantly, giving benefits the community. In 2019, our team logged more than 1,350 volunteer hours. We provided over 30,000 meals to families in need, we gave over 1,400 holiday gifts to children, mentored over 100 students, and provided 31 MacBooks to our next generation of leaders heading off to college.
This is just a sample of the impact we made in 2019.
The Power of Now #1: Austin Parks Foundation
The Austin City Limits (ACL) Music Festival held in Zilker Park has been a staple of the live music scene since 2002. In October, DISCO partnered with the Austin Parks Foundation to help keep the park clean for its approximately 450,000 attendees during the festival. We were tasked with educating and inspiring the ACL community to recycle and compost.
Over a span of three days, 16 DISCO Cares volunteers spent more than 200 hours keeping Zilker Park clean. Our team met thousands of concertgoers and educated them on how to sort trash, recyclables, and compostable materials.
As the DISCO family has been eager to get more involved with environmental causes, we are looking forward to further collaborations with the Austin Parks Foundation in 2020.
The Power of Now #2: Code2College
DISCO entered a new partnership this year with Code2College, which aims to dramatically increase the number of minority and low-income high school students who enter and excel in STEM undergraduate majors and careers. Code2College teaches these students to code in languages like Java and Python and how to network and interview for a job.
Code2College worked with more than 700 students in 2019 alone. Sixty-seven percent of these students are on a free or reduced lunch program, 45% are the first in their family to attend high school, and 49% are female.
Twenty-six DISCO volunteers spent a morning with 60 kids at DISCO HQ, sharing tips and tricks on resume building and how to pitch themselves to potential employers. Volunteers enjoyed chatting with the kids about the different roles in the startup world.
“We’re so grateful for all your coordination and support in making this first workshop at DISCO a success. Our students gained so much during our visit and you’ve made a lasting impact on their lives.” - Matt Stephenson, Code2College Executive Director and co-founder
The impact the Code2College is having on our next generation of leaders is critical, and we are looking forward to a long and proactive partnership with the Code2College team.
The Power of Now #3 - Operation Gratitude & Junior League’s Coats for Kids
For companies that currently don’t have a corporate social responsibility program or philanthropic arm, there are great grassroots opportunities that teams can quickly and easily get involved with. For example, DISCO participated in Operation Gratitude and Coats for Kids hosted by the Junior League of Austin.
Operation Gratitude’s mission is to thank every American who serves, be it active military and veterans, first responders or wounded heroes and their caregivers. During Halloween, Operation Gratitude puts together care packages for the active military. These packages consist of items like letters from home, letter writing kits, hygiene products, magazines, and comic strips and special treats and reminders of home, like candy. Since 2003, Operation Gratitude has delivered 2.3 million care packages to these heroes.
This year, DISCO donated 50 pounds of supplies for these care packages.
The Power of Now #4 - Start-Up Kids Club & Ronald McDonald House
DISCO continued our partnership with both the Start-Up Kids Club and the Ronald McDonald House. Our activities included mentoring elementary school students learning about entrepreneurship and cleaning the house to prepare it for families whose children are hospitalized.
The Power of Now #5 - Rock the Red Kettle
DISCO Cares helped out at the Salvation Army’s signature Rock the Red Kettle event — an annual benefit concert and auction to raise money for the cause. Hosted at the Community Impact Center, 11 DISCO Cares volunteers helped the event run smoothly, greeting and signing in approximately 300 attendees and promoting the giving spirit. The event brought in over $306,000 for local services for women, children, and families.
The Power of Now #6: Thanksgiving
DISCO employee Jessica Novack and her daughter started a tradition on Thanksgiving morning of handing out breakfast sandwiches to people asking for change at intersections. Jessica wanted to teach the importance of giving back to those in need, even without donating money, and thought that everyone deserved a hot meal.
On their own, Jessica and her daughter were able to hand out two dozen sandwiches. However, once the DISCO Cares team found out about the tradition, we had to join in. Together, we were able to provide a hot breakfast to 200 people.
The Power of Now #7 - Salvation Army Angel Tree & Distribution Day
For the third year in a row, DISCO Cares participated in the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree program, which provides new clothing and toys for families in need. Last year, we delivered 500 toys to over 100 children, and this year we provided over 1400 toys to 347 kids! DISCO was the largest corporate sponsor of the Angel Tree for 2019.
Our office was positively overflowing with the festive red bags of toys, jackets, games, sports equipment, and other gifts — in fact, we had to put out another call for volunteers to help the Salvation Army load everything into their truck!
A week later, another group of DISCO Care volunteers (including a few DISCO alumni) spent an afternoon at Salvation Army’s headquarters in Austin to meet the families and distribute gifts. Some volunteers went “shopping” in the warehouse for the gifts, others checked paperwork, and still others helped load the gifts — in the rain, no less. There were Christmas carols playing throughout the building, and at the end of our shift, the DISCO band made a brief reunion to sing “Silent Night.”
It was heartening to see the excitement on the families’ faces (many of whom live in poverty, making less than $20,000 a year) and provide a moment of respite during the holiday season.
“We wish to send out a special thank you to our awesome friends at DISCO and DISCO Cares, who went above and beyond by adopting 347 Angels for our Angel Tree program. These employees have volunteered at our Rock the Red Kettle ATX event and participated with Angel tree with adoptions and distribution. Thank you for fulfilling the gift requests of local children who would otherwise not have gifts during this Holiday season.” - Corey Leith, Salvation Army, Director of Communications
The year ahead
As we look towards 2020, DISCO Cares is guided by our brand-new mission statement. After a survey to determine areas of our employees’ giving priorities, we wanted to write down the principles that direct our giving:
At DISCO, we believe to help is human. DISCO Cares fosters the inventor’s spirit to inspire compassion, service, and kindness in our communities through our philanthropic activities.
The time is now. Whether your passion is the environment, the next generation of leaders, families in need, homelessness, or any other cause, I encourage you to take action today, even if it is as small as buying someone lunch. Remember, any act of giving, regardless of size, makes a difference.
To see more of our #DISCOcares stories, follow us on Instagram: @discocares. Thank you to Ariel Zarate-Carmona, Jessica Novack, Frank Thomas, Jessica Love and Erin Russell for their volunteering and contributions to this blog.