PNC Offers Opportunities for Employees & Local Children

Being named a Fortune 500 Company is an accolade many business owners can only dream of. For PNC Bank, it’s an award they continually remain grateful for.

While work perks like cool lounges, free food Fridays, executive box seats at sporting events and nap pods are all benefits that employees look forward to, sometimes the word, “benefits” can run deeper than just fun perks.

PNC Bank created an extensive volunteer program for its employees nationwide, with community involvement at the heart of its mission. Locally, the results from such volunteerism, particularly their Grow Up Great program, a $350 million initiative, has had quite the impact in the mid-Michigan area, according to Jennifer Sturdy, PNC Client and Community Relations director.

“The program we’re involved with really makes a difference,” Sturdy said. “It makes a difference with the families that we serve and ultimately the communities that we all live and work in. It gives you a lot of pride.”

Partnering with Impression 5 Science Center in Lansing, PNC’s Grow Up Great program solidifies the bank’s mission to give back and create a brighter future. The Science Center got its start in 1972 in an old wagon factory. Built in 1880, its 30,000 sq. ft. facilities and exhibits were then expanded in 2011 with the help of a $150,000 grant from the PNC Foundation.

The volunteer program is what sets PNC apart from many of its competing banks and other big businesses. Each employee gets 40 hours of paid time off per year, if they donate that time to childhood education, making the generous volunteer program appealing to the community and employees.

Some of the partners, that mid-Michigan’s PNC employees work closely with, include grant programs from Capital Area Head Start, AL!VE health park in Charlotte, Mich., YMCA of Metropolitan Lansing and Impression 5 Science Center. Forming teams of four to 10 employees, each team has a goal to volunteer at least 100 hours, equivalent to $3,000.

The idea started in 2003 when William S. Demchak, president and chairman, challenged the PNC employee group to consider focusing their collective give as a Fortune 500 company in one area. The employees overwhelmingly decided they wanted to work with children. Early childhood education proved to be the best area for investment and the Grow Up Great program was born. Having celebrated their 12th anniversary, soon to be 13, Grow Up Great’s mission continues to have an unwavering focus on underserved kids and school readiness.

PNC considers the program a wise investment – as it they’re helping to fund children, the future workforce and improve education in neighborhoods at the same time.

Research shows that children who participate in high-quality preschool programs are far more likely to experience greater success in aspects of life, such as: education, society, personal health and wealth. A recent research paper, “The Life-Cycle Benefits of an Influential Early Childhood Program,” co-authored by Nobel laureate James Heckman, a professor of economics at the University of Chicago and the director for the Center for the Economics of Human Development showed the impact. The study showed that while upfront costs for early education programs were costly, the rate of return on investment in disadvantaged children was far more impressive and proved to be an enormous social benefit.

Each year, PNC hosts a ‘Great Month’ in April, celebrating and recognizing its successful efforts in raising funds and supporting childhood education across the nation. This year, in celebration of the 13th anniversary of Grow Up Great, the company’s goal is to donate one million items to the program through a collections drive. Since its inception, the program has already reached 2.5 million children, over one million teachers and has given out three million multimedia kits to students.

The program’s benefits for both employees and participants in the program are two-fold. Local area Head Start programs with kindergarten students have benefitted directly from the PNC Grow Up Great program in receiving the most basic of needs. Through the unrestricted funds, which are virtually unheard of, according to Sturdy, the program centers are able to identify the most important areas for need and hand-pick where the funds go.

Sturdy recalled a Head Start teacher telling her how the $3,000 check from the program would allow her to purchase new supplies for the classroom, but also winter coats for three students. Kids who otherwise would wear sweatshirts or a sibling’s oversized coat were now given warm coats for cold Michigan winter days – something other grants wouldn’t usually cover.

It’s not just the kids that benefit, it’s also the ‘warm fuzzies’ that PNC employees feel while giving back. From the outside looking in, banks aren’t always viewed as giving, philanthropic entities in the community. They can be very transaction-based, not focused on customer service or making a difference in communities outside of the teller’s window. PNC is working hard to break that mold.

Volunteers have seen firsthand the impact of the hours donated, a reward in itself. Meeting and seeing the students who have benefited from the fundraising helps employees to realize just how beneficial their time is to those in need. Chances are, if you ask a PNC employee about their time spent volunteering, you’re likely to hear a heartwarming story.

Giving back is a major theme that many millennial job seekers look for, and another thing that makes PNC desirable as an employer, voted one of the 100 best companies to work for by Working Mother Magazine.

Sturdy spoke about the new workforce of job seekers. “They want a mission that’s higher than just the company’s calling,” she said. “And this kind of fills that gap for us, so our employees that want to be engaged, that want to be involved with young families in the community, they want to give back, this is that perfect opportunity to do that.”

While PNC is a huge organization with many different outlets and areas of expertise, ranging from wealth management, commercial, retail and business banking, the common cause that all employees can come together and stand behind is the Grow Up Great program. Because the volunteer program encompasses all employees, PNC is able to set itself apart from other companies with similar offerings.

“A lot of companies have some sort of volunteer program, but ours focuses on every employee,” Sturdy said. “If you are a part-time teller, college student or an executive, they have the same opportunity or same ability to be involved. It’s nice for our employees to take a step back and come back to work with a whole different perspective on things.”

PNC’s Grow Up Great program continues to impact millions of people – from volunteering employees to partnering grant businesses and organizations, the Head Start and early childhood education students. For PNC employees, the measurable impact is a pride they wouldn’t trade for anything.

Sarah Spohn

Sarah Spohn

Sarah Spohn received her degree in Journalism from Lansing Community College. She’s a concert junkie; living and breathing in both the local and national music scene. She is proud to call Lansing her home, finding a new reason every day to be smitten with the mitten.

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