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SPINS Inspire Vibrancy: Building Connections Through Philanthropy

Winston Churchill was quoted as saying, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”  This quote resounds with me, as advocacy has been ingrained in my core philosophy since before the second grade. As a Montessori child harkening from a legacy of philanthropists and host to an overdeveloped sense of empathy, I knew early on that my mission in life was to serve those in need, and volunteering for several organizations during childhood provided a great deal of exposure to the needs of the underserved. Fortunately, since beginning my career as a Natural Product Research Associate at SPINS in April 2014, I have discovered a great intersection between my professional life and love of philanthropy.

June, Sam, Emilee, and their partners working with LSSI in Marion last summer.

June, Sam, Emilee, and their partners working with LSSI in Marion last summer.

During my onboarding at SPINS I was excited to learn about employee Volunteer Comp Days (VCDs), which are full paid days off for employees to volunteer for an approved project. With the approval of our CEO, I planned a group VCD benefitting GRO, a program of Lutheran Social Services of Illinois (LSSI) in Marion, which aims to lift up returning citizens through organic community food production. I was thrilled to volunteer collaboratively with my fellow colleagues who share my passion for natural foods and interest in community service. I was so happy to see the interest in participation, especially given that it was so far from our (then current) headquarters in Schaumburg and required an overnight stay, which was graciously facilitated by LSSI. With the help of two very special colleagues, Samantha and Emilee of the Content Development department, we set out with our significant others and drove down to volunteer at GRO for the weekend. The experience was life-changing; in making a collective positive impact, our volunteer team gained the benefit of an unparalleled sense of comradery.

SPINjas spent a day making pet toys and keeping the testers company!

SPINjas spent a day making pet toys and keeping the testers company!

The week after our volunteer event, Samantha, my future partner in social justice, IMed me about her thoughts on starting a corporate philanthropic outreach program at SPINS. There I sat, at my desk, having begun drafting a white paper I intended to pitch to our CEO with the same idea! It was an absolute “A-ha!” moment; with the same passion and non-profit organization (NPO) experience, we could partner in this mission, watch it grow, and bring something very special to SPINS. After our CEO approved the venture, SPINS Inspire was born!

From its inception, SPINS Inspire has garnered membership beyond its founders, and produced multiple successful, charitable initiatives and VCD opportunities. Our projects have included:

  • A Thanksgiving holiday healthy foods drive, which we dubbed “Cornucopia,” benefitting Pacific Garden Mission in Chicago’s South Loop.
  • A winter holiday “Cozy-Up” new-coat drive, benefitting eight families served through LSSI.
  • A spring career clothing drive, benefitting Bridge to Success in Chicago’s South Loop.
  • A large improvements and upgrades project to Randolph Elementary School in Chicago’s West Englewood neighborhood with Chicago Cares.
  • Recycling old fabric and t-shirts into brand new cat and dog toys at The Anti-Cruelty Society.
  • Cooking and serving residents of Chicago’s poverty-afflicted uptown neighborhood at the Inspiration Corporation kitchen and café.
SPINS Inspire healthy food drive.

SPINS Inspire healthy food drive.

In one year, SPINS Inspire has blossomed tremendously, and I look forward to fostering its growth alongside Samantha, our Team Inspire members, and vibrant SPINS employees! We are very lucky to be provided the platform through SPINS to be making our lives by what we give in the same space that we are making our living.