by Erin Stokes, ND
If you want to feel better in your own life, one of the best things you can do is to volunteer to help others. Studies have repeatedly shown that volunteering our time for a cause that we believe in helps us feel more connected to other people and less isolated. Yet, it can be difficult to find the time to volunteer in the midst of a busy life.
Allowing employees to have the time to volunteer is what makes the VPTO program at INNATE Response so exceptional.
What is VPTO?
VPTO stands for Volunteer Paid Time Off and is a program where people can allocate a set number of hours per year (24 hours per year in our case) to devote to a cause that they care about. This volunteer time can be taken in the middle of the work week. It provides employees an opportunity to make a difference in the world, without having to cut into earned vacation time to do it. For me, being a busy working mom, this employee benefit is important.. I’m more invested in a company that helps me walk my talk.
On a recent day in May, I took a full -eight-hour day of VPTO to plant a school garden with third graders. Learning about where our food comes from was part of a Garden-to-Table program. Each of the three different third-grade classes came to the garden for an outdoor lesson before planting. We talked about seeds and seedlings, the conditions and the plants needed to thrive, consulted garden maps and talked about what we would plant where. Then we rolled up our sleeves and planted tomatoes, basil, arugula, chard, carrots, beets, onions, squash, zucchini, sunflowers, nasturtiums, watermelons and more! Connecting kids to the garden and their food source is a passion of mine. I believe that when this connection is made early in life, healthier choices are naturally made, both for the individual, and the planet. In the fall, the kids will get to see the fruits of their labor, and this garden will be harvested by the incoming third-grade class, some of whom will have the chance to do something like dig in the dirt to harvest a carrot for the first time. I will be there, taking another day of VPTO. After my spring day of VPTO, I returned to my work at INNATE renewed, recharged, and full of gratitude for being able to devote a day to a cause I feel so strongly about.