Sustaining a Culture of Caring Through a Pandemic
Challenging, yes. Impossible, no. While we adapted to remote work, we missed our usual in-person charity fundraisers and outreach activities. No more bake sales and cornhole tournaments. No more classroom visits to inspire the next generation of STEM professionals. Certainly, no crossing the finish line alongside thousands of sweaty runners for a good cause. What was there to do?
Plenty! Ask Robin Sasek, graphic designer and CDM Smith Cares program coordinator.
“The pandemic brought even more need to help people in our communities,” said Sasek. “From sewing masks to grocery shopping for the elderly to donating blood. We saw many employees step up.”
CDM Smith Cares, an employee-led volunteer program, focuses on outreach activities that build community and improve quality of life through local efforts. The program empowers employees to rally around causes that align with our core values, including healthy living initiatives, environmental stewardship, STEM outreach and more.
“Not being in our offices was challenging, but fortunately, Cares efforts continued,” said Charlie Mielcarek, principal facilities manager and CDM Smith Cares coordinator. “Online tools like Yammer, our internal social networking platform, Teams and our intranet webpage helped facilitate coordination of remote activities, sharing of ideas across our global offices and keeping a record of our volunteer efforts.”
Coming together virtually, employees in Edison, New Jersey, raised about $2,700 and assembled tote bags full of goodies for 70 brave COVID-19 unit workers at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick. Meanwhile, Paul Blomberg, associate structural engineer from Phoenix, Arizona, joined by his wife Kathy, volunteered at their regional hospital’s drive-thru COVID-19 vaccine clinic, helping more than 1,600 people get vaccinated in an 11-hour period.
While new pandemic-related needs required our attention, we also continued some traditions with a remote spin. Across the globe, our employees raised awareness for men’s health issues by wearing moustaches for Movember and took part in Wear Red Day in February to promote women’s heart health. Sharing selfies, stories and statistics on health brought a renewed focus to our wellbeing and helped us connect virtually while physically distanced.
Employees participating in CDM Smith’s wellness program continued to rack up points, tracking their steps on quarantine walks and logging daily activities supporting mental and physical health. The program has a unique charity incentive. If employees can collectively earn enough points to meet quarterly goals, CDM Smith may donate up to $50,000 to charities selected both by the firm’s Executive Leadership Team and by employee vote. Since the program's start in 2017, CDM Smith has donated $650,000 distributed among 31 charities. Most recently, we gave $25,000 to AdoptAClassroom.org to benefit special needs classrooms in 87 cities across the U.S. where we work. Another $25,000 went to HomeAid American, a leading national nonprofit provider of housing and resources for people experiencing homelessness.
Since 2005, CDM Smith has partnered with Water For People, an international nonprofit that brings water, sanitation and hygiene services to developing countries. Our 2020 workplace giving campaign was sustained by payroll contributions—an easy, automated way to give, virtual fundraisers like the World Water Classic remote race, and other corporate sponsorships including CDM Smith’s Spring Match. Together, we proudly contributed $126,000 to Water For People in 2020, bringing our total all-time giving to $2.16+ million.
CDM Smith also has a longstanding relationship with Engineers Without Borders (EWB-USA). While COVID-19 has halted many overseas EWB-USA projects, the Community Engineering Corps—a joint program with EWB-USA, the American Society of Civil Engineers and the American Water Works Association—is designing solutions for underserved communities across the U.S. A team of professionals at CDM Smith is currently providing pro-bono engineering services to bring a more substantial water supply to the residents in Anza, CA. Christine Rice (Los Angeles), Kati Nguyen (Los Angeles) and Meghan Drew (Chicago) have been developing the preliminary design and cost estimates for the necessary infrastructure to establish a community water district including a pipeline extension to the community, distribution system with water services and fire hydrants, water treatment system, storage and pump stations.
“For younger engineers like me, it’s great experience to grow leadership skills, network and give back in a meaningful way,” said Rice. “We also have UCLA students helping, and we’re mentoring them, which is great for building relationships with potential new grad hires.”
An ASCE Governor for Region 9, Rice was a guest speaker for Middle School Day, part of a week-long, virtual STEM event for K-12 students hosted by the ASCE Los Angeles Younger Member Forum. She noted that virtual mentoring and STEM outreach activities are easy ways to give back remotely and require limited time.
At CDM Smith, we are inspired to think and driven to solve for both our clients and our communities because we care. Our commitment has withstood the pandemic and will remain strong.