More than 2,800 current and retired GE Healthcare employees picked up paintbrushes and helped unpack classrooms to celebrate the company’s 18th annual Community Service Day – its largest, single-day employee volunteer initiative worldwide.
The event, held on Wednesday, Aug. 22, benefitted 15 Milwaukee Public Schools and five Waukesha Public Schools with back-to-school improvement projects such as landscaping, painting murals, cleaning and helping teachers move to new classrooms and get settled for the year ahead.
Historically, Community Service Day has always supported schools. It began 18 years ago with no more than a handful of GE employee volunteers who took it upon themselves to reach out and make a difference at Clarke Street School in Milwaukee, where they noticed a need for basic cleaning and preparation.
Today, with the same sense of volunteerism, GE Healthcare makes an impact on a much larger scale.
According to Larry Mueller, director of project management at GE Healthcare and Community Service Day co-leader, the GE team can accomplish in a day what a school could accomplish in a month or longer thanks to the efforts of each employee volunteer.
“There’s a huge team behind all the volunteers at the schools making sure this comes off without a hitch,” Mueller said.
In addition to GE global design teams that design sketches of the school murals GE creates, the company also has a team that arranges transportation and lunch for the thousands of volunteers. A separate team helps evaluate which schools can benefit most from GE’s help. Beginning in January of each year, GE members will walk through some of the potential schools with representatives from MPS to decide what kinds of projects at which schools will allow the company to make the biggest impact.
This year, GE welcomed the help of nearly 200 employees from other community organizations like the BloodCenter of Wisconsin and the Milwaukee Bucks.
Mueller said that GE Healthcare has continued to develop a partnership with the school districts it helps as the event has grown.
Besides Community Service Day, the organization is active in MPS’ science, technology, engineering and math initiatives – especially the district’s FIRST Robotics and Junior Achievement programs.
As Community Service Day has become embedded into GE Healthcare’s culture, it remains among the volunteer events employees look forward to most.
Mueller said that by March of each year, he will start receiving inquiries about the event. When the first registration notice comes out at the end of June, hundreds of employees sign up to help within the first few days.
Last year, 900 signed up at the start of registration.
“It’s overwhelming the number that jump on it and want to participate,” Mueller said.
He is just as impressed with employee enthusiasm and drive during the actual event.
“I’m overwhelmed at the creativity and the passion and the dedication of the employees here and the amount of blood, sweat and tears they put into the schools,” he said.