We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again. Here at LS&Co., giving back is in our genes. Our founder, Levi Strauss, was a philanthropic pioneer, and instilled in our culture the importance of donating our time and resources to those in need, which is just one reason why more than 4,000 of our employees took time away from work this past Wednesday to participate in Community Day, our annual global day of service.
In addition to Community Day, LS&Co. employees worldwide volunteer both during company hours and outside of the workplace. Our Community Involvement Teams tackle issues ranging from HIV/AIDS to poverty to animal rights, serving as a global force for good.
In honor of this past week’s Community Day, , we share with you a few stories from LS&Co. employees who are committed to making a difference:
Human Resources, Spain and Italy
Been with the company for: 14 years
UNZIPPED: Give us an overview of some of the volunteer work you have done over the years.
Georgina Armengou: Having been with the company for so long, we have both had many opportunities to give back. Many people are experiencing difficult times here in Spain due to the economic situation. In recent years, we have focused on helping children, the poor, the sick and the elderly, and giving them food and resources.
What are some of the most meaningful volunteer experiences that you have had?
GA: We went on a cultural visit with very elderly people. Each volunteer was paired up with one elderly person, assisting and taking care of him or her. We visited a historical building here in Barcelona and then went to lunch with them. Not only did we have the opportunity to make these people happy, but we also got to hear all of their interesting stories. So, it was a really wonderful experience from both sides.
Begoña Baños Resa
Retail Allocator, Spain
Been with the company for: 25 years
Begoña Baños Resa: For me, one memorable story was when we partnered with an organization that helps give Christmas presents to people in need.
The gifts that people asked for were very meaningful. Many of them requested things that we might take for granted, but that would greatly improve their quality of life. One asked for a pair of shoes. One said they wanted a radio, because they spent a lot of time alone, and the radio would make them less lonely.
We went shopping and sent them their gifts. Then, they sent letters and photos thanking us. It was emotional to see them so happy and so grateful.
Retail Training & Development Manager, South Africa
Been with the company for: 19 years
Tell us about your CITs in South Africa.
Over the past 20 years, we have been involved with issues ranging from child abuse to HIV/AIDS to animals to the environment. We cover almost very facet of what you can do in volunteerism.
For us here in South Africa, Mandela’ s principal of Ubuntu and doing things for the good of everyone is a big topic. We are who we are because of who we are together. Especially now, since Mandela passed away, we have to make sure that we don’t lose the good principals that he set for us, and that we continue to give back.
What causes have been most important to you during your volunteer work?
I really care about homeless people. A couple years ago we worked at a soup kitchen in a shelter and ran workshops, teaching residents useful skills. We taught them how to make cards and crafts, either to sell or give as gifts. There was one man there who was an ex-convict. You could see that he had been through a lot. But he was so engaged in this card making activity. He wanted to make a card for his daughter.
Not only was this a lesson for me in not judging a book by its cover, but it was so touching to see this human side of somebody who you knew had been down a dark road. To me, it showed hope.
People land in bad circumstances in life. You don’t necessarily expect them to want to reach out and take your hand and engage in something that can rehabilitate them. But they do.
What are some other lessons you have learned through volunteering?
I once said to a homeless person, “I hope life goes better for you.” And she said, “What do you mean? I’ve got my community. People that live in flats and houses are lonelier than we are. We’ve got each other under the bridge.”
We judge them and think that we are better off. But often, they have a richer spirit than we do. They have a community. I keep learning lessons from people on the street. I would have thought that, being a trainer, I could go out there and teach them things — but often, it’s the reverse.
How does LS & Co. encourage volunteers to do this work?
LS&Co. has amazing values. We state our values and we live them. Empathy is so important to us. It has become a way of working here. We don’t do business without it.
Senior Manager of Licensing and Sales, Signature by Levi Strauss & Co.®/dENiZEN®, San Francisco
Been with the company for: 25 years
Tell us about the volunteer work you do through LS & Co.?
I volunteer at the Raphael House through our CIT. It was the first homeless shelter in the city specifically for families. Their goal is to help families gain stability in their lives so that they are able to achieve stable housing and financial independence while strengthening family bonds and personal dignity.
The shelter is set up like a warm home and helps families to connect with each other. There is story time for kids. When they go to bed at night they all sing songs as they walk down the halls and say goodnight. They take in people that have had an unimaginable amount of hardship and provide a very warm environment.
Tell us about the things that you do to help them.
They’re a big part of our Community Day. Last year we painted their rooftop playground, and over the years we have helped redecorate several of their meeting rooms.
We also participate in Corporate Chef’s Night, where a group of 4-6 volunteers come in and cook for the residents and staff. We cook, set the tables, serve the dinner and clean up. It’s really rewarding to be able to help with the work that Raphael House does.
Can you tell us about one moment there that really stood out to you?
One night, we knew that it was a little boy who was living in the shelter’s birthday. So we baked a cake, put in the candles and carried it out. The entire community living there, the volunteers and all the staff all came out to sing happy birthday to this child.
I had no background on him. Who knows what he had experienced in the past, or why his family wound up in the shelter? But at that moment, he was thrilled. We were his family and his friends. Seeing this little boy’s smile let me know that I helped make his birthday a very happy one and that was extremely rewarding.