Mark Rollins knows the impact volunteerism can have on a community, from the smallest works of individuals to the collective power that a large corporation can put behind the effort.
“It feels good to help others,” says Rollins, executive vice president of Brown and Brown of NY.
Rollins has been the board chair of Volunteer New York! for the last three years, advocating and strategizing ways in which the local corporate community can get its employees involved in volunteer work. He was just honored with the organization’s Legacy Award for his efforts. The organization, formerly the Volunteer Center of United Way, is one of 10 Regional Volunteer Centers in New York and covers the mid-Hudson Valley.
“People who volunteer don’t do it for public recognition, but rather to improve the outcomes for nonprofit organizations,” Rollins says. “It has been my goal to encourage more business owners and leaders to encourage their employees to volunteer. Let them do it during work hours and they will become better teammates.”
A lifelong Westchester resident and business leader who lives in Harrison, Rollins answered a few questions on the impact of volunteerism.
Why is volunteerism important?
It is clear that volunteering is good for volunteers. I believe that people in general like to help others and get a lot out of it. Those that have more free time, like retirees, tend to volunteer more than those in the work force. So it is important that corporations allow their employees time during work to volunteer. It also benefits the corporation. Employees feel more engaged, it is a good recruiting and retention tool and it is great for team building.
Where did your inspiration come from?
I was first inspired to volunteer by both my mom and dad. My father was involved in organizations like the Lions Club and Rotary Club. I remember spending time with him at the annual Christmas tree sale in Bronxville that the Bronxville Rotary ran every year. I also remember seeing my mom head out as a candy striper at United Hospital in Port Chester. It was examples like those and more that inspired me to volunteer.
How do you encourage corporations to allow employees to do volunteer service?
It starts at the top. For larger corporations, you need to find an advocate inside who can get to leadership and make a case for the benefits of having employees volunteer. It can be as easy as hosting a lunch and having the team from Volunteer New York! come in and start the discussion. If corporations do not have the staffing to pull this off, organizations like VNY exist to fill that gap.
Can you give some examples of successful volunteer projects?
Regeneron’s volunteer program has blossomed over the years with VNY. Most recently we did an event for them. There were 300 employees working on 12 projects during national volunteer week. We also have many examples of projects for small to midsize companies
How does volunteerism make a difference in the community?
The fact that they exist makes our community a much better place to live and work. In our community, there are several thousand nonprofits that provide critical services to the less fortunate, and to keep them going, there is a huge need for volunteers. Many would not survive without them. They do basic but important tasks like answering phones to providing strong financial support to the finance department. And board service is critical to non-profits.
2015 Volunteer Spirit Award winners
•Education & Literacy: The Westchester Clubmen, New Rochelle
•Going Green: Sven Hoeger, Greenburgh, for service to the Sarah Lawrence College Center for the Urban River at Beczak
•Quality Of Life: Alison Bergman, Ardsley, for service to the Girl Scouts Heart of the Hudson
•Safe Community: Jacqueline Cassagnol, Spring Valley, for service to the Worldwide Community First Responder, Inc.
•Social Advocacy: Sister in Law Court Accompaniment Program of My Sister’s Place, White Plains
•Youth Group In Action: Linking Handlebars, Rye
•Youth Leader: Sandra Goldstein Lehnert, Rockland County, for service to the Student Activists Ending Dating Abuse