What was just a small bit of inspiration at the beginning of the year blossomed into a flurry of impact by its end. In January of 2016, ASEA’s Advancing Life Foundation was only 8 months old and sending a group of 35 volunteers off on its first official Advancing Life expedition to the village of La Concepción, Mexico. Future expeditions were already planned and fundraisers were underway, but something was still missing.

More Impact on More Local Lives

After the wonderful experience of laboring alongside associates and villagers in La Concepción, ASEA Founder Tyler Norton began to formulate the missing piece. One year after announcing the formation of the Advancing Life Foundation, Tyler again took the stage at ASEA Global Convention to share a new initiative—a strategic local counterbalance to the hugely beneficial, but remote, service expeditions.

What he envisioned was a series of smaller, corporate-sponsored service days tied to company events and spearheaded by local employees and associates. These days would live under the banner of Have an Impact. Make a Difference. Each Make a Difference day would offer added opportunities to employees and associates to have an impact throughout the year, often within their own communities. By October of 2016, three such events had already marked the initiative’s success:

  • Coordinating with Grapevine Relief and Community Exchange (GRACE), a local partner agency of United Way, ASEA associates donated and assembled hygiene kits at Envision Conference in Dallas, Texas.
  • Assisting the Road Home, a local homeless shelter, in its mission to move people from cold streets to warm housing, ASEA employees collected gently used clothing, coats, and blankets to deliver along with their service of sorting clothes, preparing meals, and serving dinner to families.
  • Through Vida y Familia, Acociación Civil (VIFAC), ASEA associates donated and assembled baby kits at Envision Conference in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, giving forsaken mothers and their babies a hopeful start.

A Five-Part December Flurry

By the time the December season of giving had rolled around, Advancing Life’s Make a Difference days were a ready platform on which ASEA employees could serve. In total, ASEA departments and teams operated five different mini-missions to support the initiatives of several hardworking community charities:

Mini-Mission #1: Food & Funds for Utah Families

As part of the Utah Food Bank’s annual Holiday Food & Fund Drive, ASEA leadership encouraged employees to make contributions throughout December. To enable individual giving, the company even hosted an employee recognition lunch and asked employees to take the money they would have spent on lunch that day and donate it.

Thanks to their purchasing power (built on community support programs such as grocery rescues), the Utah Food Bank stretched the donations—which totaled $900—to the equivalent of $7,000 in goods and services. In addition, employees donated another 400 pounds of food using donation bins placed within ASEA headquarters and its product warehouse.

About the Utah Food Bank
The Utah Food Bank is Utah’s only affiliate of Feeding America, the nation’s largest domestic hunger-relief organization. They operate 130 pantries across 29 counties to fight hunger statewide. Its annual Holiday Food & Fund Drive runs from October 15 through January 15 and helps stock the shelves of emergency food pantries statewide through the holidays and into the spring months.

Mini-Mission #2: Children’s Coloring Kits

The marketing and legal departments cleverly repurposed old DVD cases to create 150 travel coloring kits for children passing through the Road Home and Children’s Justice Center, who may not have much to call their own. Between the design, assembly, and delivery, employees put in 80 hours of service.

“It was amazing sitting down as a team to work on something that we knew would make kids smile,” said Lowery Johnson, who came up with the idea. “Not only were the kits something that could entertain the kids, but they were something that was completely theirs. It was beyond special to be a part of that.”

About the Children’s Justice Center
The Salt Lake County Children’s Justice Center Program provides a comfortable, child-friendly atmosphere where children and teens receive coordinated services during the child abuse investigation process. Volunteers connect victims and witnesses to a variety of expert services in counseling, medical care, restitution, and more.

About the Road Home
The Road Home is a private, non-profit social services agency that assists individuals and families experiencing homelessness in Salt Lake County. The Road Home provides emergency shelter and personalized case management to help people identify and overcome the obstacles that have led them to becoming homeless.

Mini-Mission #3: Holiday Gifts for Preschoolers

Employees from around the company gathered toys, puzzles, dolls, and learning games as holiday gifts for children at The Children’s Center who have lost parents or who would otherwise miss the opportunity to exchange holiday gifts.

About the Children’s Center
Founded in 1962, The Children’s Center is a unique community preschool specializing in comprehensive mental healthcare to enhance the emotional wellbeing of infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and their families. This organization offers therapeutic preschool programs for children ages 2 to 6 who are struggling with emotional or behavioral problems.

Mini-Mission #4: Bags for Youth in Transition

As the state-appointed organization for overseeing that foster children are safely housed, the Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) is familiar with every detail in these kids’ often-unpredictable lives. In situations where a child cannot safely remain in their home, a child’s scarce-but-cherished belongings are packed into whatever container is readily available.

“It has been a trend in the past, to just shove their things in a garbage bag and send them on their way,” says Kati Ventura of DCFS. “Many of us feel very passionate about not allowing another child’s very minimal possessions be moved in garbage bags.”

After hearing about this small but impactful detail in the painful process of moving to a foster home, a member of our accounting team spearheaded a drive that ultimately turned up more than 60 bags to help keep a child’s dignity and humanity intact while undergoing a traumatizing life change.

“Having the donation of the duffel bags gave us inventory to ensure many children are able to move with some sort of dignity,” remarked Kati. “To the average person, having a duffel bag of their own seems silly, but to our foster children, it means the world! Thank you for taking the time to collect the duffel bags and to care about the children who are part of our foster care system.”

About the DCFS
DCFS is a division of the state government whose education and intervention programs serve to keep children safe from abuse and neglect by working with communities and strengthening families.

Mini-Mission #5: Assisting the Angels in Giving

Angel Tree Event - December - Advancinglife.org

Members of the ASEA associate support team took time to play an operational role in a 25-year-old Utah tradition, giving 90 combined hours of service to the KUTV/Salvation Army Angel Tree program. The volunteers convened at local Salvation Army facilities to sort donations, helping ensure the numerous and generous gifts made it to the needy children and seniors for which they were purchased.

“You have helped in aiding 4,000 children who are part of more than 1,400 families,” said Salvation Army Volunteer Coordinator Sydnee Ruster Mack in a letter to ASEA. “We would like to extend our thank you for the work you have done to ensure the success of our Angel Tree Program, and our endeavors to ensure that all children have a Merry Christmas.”

About the Salvation Army
Since 1865, The Salvation Army has worked to “meet human need without discrimination.” To respond to the varying needs of the communities in which they serve, they administer all holiday assistance programs locally. The Angel Tree program, co-sponsored by local KUTV 2News, is one such locally administered program, which gives citizens a simple opportunity to anonymously provide holiday gifts to needy children and seniors.