Corporate partner highlight: Vital Life, a Marquis and Consonus Foundation.
An army of volunteers scurry from one task to another in the kitchen of our Rockwood facility, warming up tray after tray of turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing and other holiday favorites. Soon hundreds of program youth and their families will arrive for the annual Friendsgiving Celebration. This team of volunteers is highly invested in making sure that everyone has a wonderful time and leaves with bellies full and spirits high.
This is the fourth year that the crew from Vital Life, a Marquis and Consonus Foundation, has headed up Friendsgiving preparations. Friendsgiving has a long tradition at Friends of the Children. It started as a small potluck gathering where everyone shared what they were thankful for.
That tradition of sharing remains an important part of the event. After the meal, youth and adults alike share stories about the people and things that are meaningful in their lives. Ann Adrian, Executive Director of Vital Life, recalls a touching moment from a previous Friendsgiving. “I have many memorable moments from being around youth in the Friends of the Children program. My favorite memory comes from a simple moment of shared gratitude during Friendsgiving when a young eight-year-old boy looked me straight in the eye, shook my hand and told me he appreciated our partnership.”
On top of being a significant corporate donor, Vital Life supports the Friends of the Children's mission in other impactful ways. Program youth and graduates have been connected to free CNA training with pathways to job placement. Two program graduates who went on to college were provided with jobs in the physical therapy and pharmacy departments while they completed their degrees. The Consonus pharmacy team has also provided tours for youth in their facility, job shadowing and broadening their vision of what career trajectories are possible. “It has been a very rewarding journey to see youth progress through the Friends program. A huge win is partnering in their success as they graduate and begin their careers with us,” said Adrian.
Opportunities abound for youth to volunteer with patients in Marquis care facilities. In one project, adolescents created music playlists for Alzheimer’s patients. While the Vital Life and Friends of the Children missions focus on two very different ends of the aging spectrum, Adrian sees these interactions as prime examples of what can be accomplished when intergenerational relationships are built. “Seniors light up when they are surrounded by youth. They love to share their wisdom, life stories and time with Friends youth," Adrian explained. "Our staff feels their volunteer time with your program makes a meaningful difference. We always walk away from shared events reminding ourselves that our future looks bright thanks to the youth we connect with at Friends."
Adrian encourages other businesses to be open to engagement opportunities, both large and small. “Whether it is one member of your team or many, the rewards are exponential. You are able to meet youth of all ages in the program. I promise you each one will inspire you. Your involvement helps the youth in the program see the possibilities of what their future can look like by sharing your resources, talents and gifts.”