On a recent morning inside the San Antonio Assistance League Thrift House, eight-year-old Robert walked alongside a Rackspace volunteer, picking out books and clothes to take home.
It wasn’t just a treat to choose books he liked and clothes that fit; for Robert and many of his classmates, it was the first time they had been shopping for themselves at all.
They were taking part in Operation School Bell, an initiative of the Assistance League that provides new clothes, books and other items to children whose families cannot afford them. Each child is paired up with a volunteer who “shops” with them, helping them find clothes that fit and books they like.
Rackspace has long provided funding for Operation School Bell, but this year, that support expanded to include Rackspace volunteers who were paired up with the children to give them a personalized shopping experience.
Volunteerism is a core value at Rackspace, where employees are given 24 hours of paid time to volunteer each year. While many use that time during the holidays, Rackers volunteer year-round for a variety of causes and charities. These include events driven by Rackspace, such as our annual Thanksgiving Fill a Box, Feed a Family drive as well as partnering with global nonprofits like Code.org, which organizes Hour of Code, sending volunteers into elementary schools to introduce kids to the power (and fun) of coding.
Rackers also mobilize independently, like they did after hurricanes Harvey and Irma contributing thousands of hours at organizations across South Texas in support of relief efforts.
Critical to our volunteer efforts is Rack Gives Back, our employee-led community affairs group, which helps match Rackers and volunteer opportunities and publicizes efforts to help Rackers in need.
“At Rackspace, we volunteer our best every day when we serve our customers, each other and our communities,” said Allie Patterson, a community affairs specialist with Rack Gives Back. Recent volunteer efforts include Rackers helping clean up and rebuild in Mexico City, Houston and other coastal Texas cities, hosting a family service fair that introduced local children to the concept of volunteerism, teaming up with a local AIDS service provider, back to school drives, a sporting events that raised money for hospice in London and helping kids at Operation School Bell.
“Anybody can give kids clothes,” said Lee Bartels, the vice president of philanthropic programs for the Assistance League of San Antonio. “You can collect clothes, you can put them out on a table, but this is different. Interacting with each of the children individually makes more of an impression on them. Many of these kids will tell us that they’ve never been in a store before, and here they’re able to come to a nice place and make their own choices.”
Last week, Rackspace’s Global Communications team volunteered for Operation School Bell, in part as a team building outing.
“I was looking forward to getting the team together outside of the office to do something good in the community,” said Megan Ketterer, a Rackspace PR specialist who helped organize the event. “I wasn’t expecting it to be so much fun and so rewarding. Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces while we walked around the store and watching their eyes light up when they found their favorite colored shirt or new pair of jeans was amazing.”
Patterson, who also volunteered with Operation School Bell this year, said the program has quickly become a Racker favorite. She said it’s just one of the volunteer opportunities with the San Antonio Assistance League, which also includes pricing items for the thrift store and decorating hats for children in who are in the hospital.
“What we hear from Rackers over and over is that they planned to volunteer as a way to give back to the community,” said Patterson, “and then they realize how much it fills them up. And that’s really something we all need, and that’s why we make volunteerism such an integral part of being a Racker.”
Are you interested in becoming a Racker? Visit Rackspace.com/jobs to see where we’re hiring. Learn more about Rack Gives Back, or, if you’re part of a non-profit seeking grant funding, here’s the application.