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Pay it forward -- Unusual Rhombus plan helps Emmanuel

Emmanuel Community in Detroit Lakes, along with its parent company Ecumen, was voted as one of the region's "best places to work" by the Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal in 2007.

Also last year, Detroit Lakes' SJE Rhombus was named as one of the "50 Best Small & Medium Companies to Work for in America" by the Great Place to Work Institute.

So what could make these two organizations even better? According to Christine Burnside, community development director for Emmanuel, the answer is a corporate volunteer partnership.

"Emmanuel approached SJE Rhombus about whether they'd be willing to participate in a program like this," Burnside said. "It's really exciting -- there are no other programs like it in this area that we know of."

Starting this month, SJE Rhombus employees will be able to volunteer some of their time during the workweek at Emmanuel Community.

"SJE was looking to get more involved in the community, and to have its efforts be more visible," says Dan Muzzey, an embedded systems design engineer at SJE Rhombus who is also working as the company's coordinator for the volunteer project.

"We're very proud of our efforts with the Becker County United Way (through the company's employee payroll fund drive), but giving money is easy -- we wanted to find a way for our employees to give of their time as well," he continued.

Through this program, Muzzey explained, employees can do their volunteer work on their own time, or, if they choose to volunteer during their regular work hours, SJE will pay 50 percent of their daily wage.

"They can use PTO (paid time off) hours to make up the balance (of their full-time wage), or they can choose to come to work a half hour earlier or stay a half hour later on the days they volunteer," he added.

Each week, Burnside will send a list of available volunteer opportunities over to Muzzey, who will post them at the office.

"He coordinates (the schedules of) SJE employees with myself, and we go from there," Burnside added. "Right now, we're asking the employees at SJE to donate just a few hours a month."

"We've committed to four hours a month -- that's good place to start," Muzzey said. "A volunteer opportunity can be anything from shoveling snow to helping a resident put a puzzle together."

"The heart of SJE and its employees is huge -- in many ways, we're like a big, loving, caring family, so this partnership seemed to make perfect sense," Muzzey added.

"A corporate employee volunteer partnership will help promote social responsibility within the community, and it also helps us, as a non-profit, with the challenge of funding (i.e., through using volunteer labor to provide services)," Burnside said.

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454