Kelly Christian, sports marketing manager with Levi Strauss & Co., was looking for a way to give back in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic. She found that connection through an employee volunteering opportunity with the Red Tab Foundation (RTF), our in-house nonprofit that supports LS&Co. employees past and present facing emergencies. Volunteers are checking in on one of the most vulnerable populations affected by this pandemic – our retirees – offering RTF emergency assistance and the opportunity to simply connect at a time when many are feeling socially isolated as they minimize physical exposure with others.
“People want to help, to do something, but we’re not nurses and doctors on the front lines,” Kelly said. “This is something I could do, to communicate with people, to be an extension of what the company as a whole is doing to help.”
The program is a part of RTF’s broader response to COVID-19. Since the outbreak, RTF has been responding to a 300 percent increase in employee emergency assistance grants in the past few weeks, and has open-sourced its Hardship Fund Playbook, designed to help other companies build up their own emergency support of employees.
The nearly 100 volunteers participating in the retiree outreach program have made calls across the country, offering help but also learning about the experiences of these former employees and building connections with the people who supported the company for decades. “It’s sweet and touching to feel connected to someone you’ve never met. We’re all connected under the umbrella of LS&Co. Aside from all of the craziness that’s going on right now, it reminds us of the power of human connection, relationships, and the kindness that exists in people,” Kelly said.
Many of LS&Co.’s retiree population spent their careers with the company, working for 30 or more years as manufacturing employees in production facilities that were once in Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, Tennessee, and other locations. Given that many elderly may be struggling with social isolation at a time when their loved ones stay more physically distant, the hope is that the check-ins from LS&Co. family can provide some connection and a reminder of our gratitude for their service.
“It is a pleasure and honor to speak to these retirees – I’ve never been thanked so much for doing so little,” volunteer Bettina Sapien said. “Hearing a heavy southern accent say ‘thanks honey’, or a heartfelt ‘take care, honey,’ can really make my day, my week and probably my year.”
RTF is also critical for many retirees who struggle with access to basic services like eyeglasses, hearing aids, and dentures. RTF also funds home repairs and accessibility upgrades like ramps and walk-in showers.
“It’s essential during times of uncertainty that we support people within our communities. It’s all about the little things that we can do to help each other and lead with the heart,” John Booker, RTF Global Philanthropy Lead, said.