Our Putting People First culture encourages us to not only take care of each other but our community as well. One way we recognize our people’s volunteer efforts in the community is through our Difference Maker award. Winners are chosen to join executive leaders on a company-paid humanitarian trip. On our most recent trip, six winners and their guests joined executive leaders in Ecuador, where the group helped build a foundation for a school. Read their story here.
This year, eight winners were chosen for their dedication to serving others to attend our 2020 trip to Ecuador. Learn more about this year’s Difference Makers and their efforts to give back to the community and live our core value of Putting People First.
Having been on the receiving end of help during a difficult time, Abigail understands the importance of providing support and hope to those who need it, especially people struggling with depression.
“I know what it is like to feel hopeless and the smallest kindness or distraction is sometimes all it takes to open the curtains and let a little light in,” Abigail shares. “If a few hours a week out of my time can help someone going through something like that, sign me up.”
Abigail and her dog, Aidan, are a certified therapy team through Intermountain Therapy Animals (ITA). Since 2012, they’ve done weekly rounds at Riverton Transitional Rehabilitation, providing comfort to patients in the facility. In addition to volunteering her time, Abigail also has secured two significant grants for Intermountain Therapy Animals through the Making a Difference Foundation. This dynamic duo is also READ (Reading and Education Assistance Dogs) certified — a program dedicated to improving the literacy skills of children — and reads with kids at the Draper Library one Saturday a month.
Chloie is dedicated to serving others and making sure survivors feel heard, safe, and valued. She has been volunteering regularly since high school for various organizations. Recently, she volunteered twice a week with Girls on the Run Utah, a program designed to help girls navigate their worlds and establish a love for health and fitness. She also devotes three hours a week to Style Her Empowered (S H E). Started by one of Chloie’s high school friends, this nonprofit helps creates education and employment opportunities for girls and women in Togo, Africa.
As if that doesn’t keep her busy, she also helps with office tasks at the Rape Recovery Center and is a Big Sister with Big Brothers Big Sisters Utah, where twice a month she meets with her Little Sister to hang out, do homework, or just chat.
“I think our time together helps keep her on the right track and fills me with the satisfaction that I have made a positive difference in her life,” Chloie says.
Danielle is deeply passionate about helping the underprivileged and has spent most of her adult life serving others.
“I have been incredibly blessed in this life, and I am not satisfied if I am not in turn blessing others,” Danielle says. “Service is my absolute pleasure, and it is a gift to be able to start a ripple that, even after you've left, can grow into a wave.”
Her philanthropic efforts range from feeding the homeless to starting her own grassroots movement, The Little Mission that Could, which feeds, clothes and serves children in impoverished communities. Most recently, the organization shipped tons of crucial items to the Bahamas within a week of Hurricane Dorian. In 2018, The Little Mission that Could became part of Cleft of the Rock Foundation — an organization that supports struggling parents — which Danielle now serves as a board member.
Chad has always been a strong supporter of our military and first responders. Most recently, his gratitude for these men and women increased when he married a woman whose first husband was a police officer killed in the line of duty.
“When I first met my wife, I was not fully aware of her situation,” Chad shares. “As I learned more about her story, and the many organization and people who showed support to her and her son, I was overwhelmed by the kindness and selflessness of others in our community. I felt compelled to pay it forward, on behalf of my new wife and bonus son.”
Since then, Chad has paid it forward in a big way — he helped set up the first Utah chapter of the Concerns of Police Survivors (C.O.P.S.), a national organization that supports families of officers killed in the line of duty through financial support, counseling, and providing support groups for all effected for as long as it is needed. Chad’s not only a board trustee for the Utah chapter, he also manages their social media, built and manages the chapter’s website, and organizes fundraiser events like the Fallen Officers Memorial Run and Black and Blue Gala. On top of all that, he played an integral role in turning January into Law Enforcement Appreciation Month in Utah.
“I am honored and blessed to play a role in helping the state of Utah show its support and appreciation to the men and women who have given their lives to protect the communities we live in,” Chad says. “Keeping the memory of my bonus son’s father alive is the least I can do, after the sacrifice he made for his family, his community, and the state of Utah.”
Ever since she can remember, Jessica has had a passion for making a difference.
“From taking care of friends or family, to asking the teacher to have the new kid in class sit by me so they wouldn’t be alone, I’ve always sought out ways to help others,” she says.
Jessica’s philanthropic efforts are far reaching. Locally, she volunteers with a variety of church groups, works with foster kids, and serves the homeless. She’s also been on six humanitarian trips — the first in Mexico and the most recent in Guatemala. Additionally, for the last several years, she’s been sponsoring a missionary in Colombia through her church, and a girl named Nikool through Compassion International.
“I believe everyone was created for a purpose and deserves to be loved,” Jessica shares. “It’s important to me that people know they are valued. Kindness spreads like wildfire and it only takes a spark.”
A variety of experiences have taught Justin three very important life lessons: the influence of one person showing love and kindness can be life changing — and in some cases lifesaving; it’s always important to pay it forward; and the more you give, the happier you are.
Justin uses these life lessons as the foundation for his efforts to make a difference in the lives of others. One way he makes a difference is through his church, where he leads a group of more than 80 men, helping them with employment, housing, welfare, mental health, addiction, and other health issues. While living in California in 2012, Justin founded a recovery group that helps recovering addicts with whom he had become acquainted. The group is still active to this day.
“One of my most rewarding experiences was starting the addiction recovery group in California,” Justin shares. “I still receive phone calls and messages from previous group members expressing their appreciation for the difference that group has made in their lives.”
Justin has also volunteered at the Road Home, a nonprofit organization that helps the homeless, and serves on the board of a nonprofit called Lift Up Voices that brings the gift of music to disadvantaged youth and children with special needs around the world.
Rob is passionate about living a life of service (something he says he learned from his parents) and it shows through the variety of ways he gives back to the community. For more than a decade, Rob has volunteered as a youth soccer coach and as an assistant coach to a local high school’s soccer team. For the past five years, he’s volunteered with the Catholic Community Services Refugee Resettlement Program where he’s mentored three different refugee families.
“It’s inspiring to see my refugee families learn English, find jobs, graduate from high school, and become self-sufficient just a year or two after arriving at the airport with almost nothing more than the clothes on their back,” Rob says.
The past couple of years, Rob has volunteered almost weekly at Volunteer of America’s Youth Resources Center, a drop-in resource center and emergency shelter for youth who are at-risk or experiencing homelessness. At the center, Rob sorts clothing donations, does laundry, and serves lunch to the kids. He also helps make breakfast burritos for when kids miss a meal or need food to go.
When Chad discovered there were refugee families in need of help, he knew he needed to step up. For the past seven years, Chad has volunteered with a Boy Scout troop devoted to young refugees from Burma.
“These kids have nothing, and their parents often work two or three minimum-wage jobs just to support their family,” Chad says. “It is a strong reminder of how much I have, and it motivates me to give back and help these boys however I can.”
This isn’t a traditional Scout troop. The boys live throughout the Salt Lake Valley, so Chad — along with four other volunteers — drive all over the valley to pick up the boys for their weekly meetings. And the volunteers’ efforts go far beyond helping the boys get their merit badges and Eagle award, they help them with job and scholarship applications, teach them about careers, get them clothes for job interviews, and provide the boys any other support they need.
“From taking them to dentist appointments to just going out for a bowl of noodles, these kids have become part of my family and my life has been richer for having this opportunity,” shares Chad.
This summer, Chad took on an even bigger role with the troop, serving as the scoutmaster for a refugee contingent made up of refugees from Burma, Africa, Nepal and the Marshall Islands who attended the two-week-long World Scout Jamboree in West Virginia.