Posted on March 2, 2022
When Tina Chan Sweenie started working for Penn-Mar in January 2020 as Manager of Volunteer and Donor Engagement, she could never have imagined that only two months later the COVID pandemic would bring her outreach efforts to a screeching halt.
With people and programs moving from in-person to online engagement, she needed to shift gears while continuing to foster relationships with Corporate Partners.
Mike Shriver, Director of Consulting at Penn-Mar, former CEO of Penn-Mar and Change, Inc., suggested that Tina connect with aerospace and defense company Northrop Grumman to gauge interest in volunteering.
Tina contacted Kathy Miles, an Executive Administrative Assistant at Northrop Grumman’s Sykesville, MD facility, who briefed her on the many volunteer and donation initiatives between Change and Northrop Grumman. Tina would soon find out why Mike referred to Kathy as “a saint” and credits her with being “the glue that makes the partnership so successful.”
The partnership started with various activities, including painting walls inside and outside of the 16,000 sq. ft. Stoner Avenue facility, cleaning up and mulching gardens, and organizing a Christmas gift drive providing presents for the people Change supported in the Westminster, MD community.
That hands-on involvement was followed by a grant from Northrop Grumman to fund a staff recognition program. The program provided job training and expenses for Change employees to attend conferences, as well as gift card rewards for staff cited for going above-and-beyond to support people with disabilities.
Northrop Grumman’s community outreach to local organizations in Carroll County helped get Matt Superczynski, chief engineer at the Sykesville Northrop Grumman site involved in the partnership. “I was so impressed by Change, Inc.; both its mission to serve those with developmental disabilities and the people that work tirelessly to achieve that mission. I’ve been involved with Penn-Mar ever since I was first introduced to the organization through volunteering events and now I’m serving on the Board of Penn-Mar, which has been a great experience, “he explained.
When it became obvious that no volunteer activities would be possible during the pandemic, Northrop Grumman reached out to Penn-Mar with a grant that was used to purchase meals for the people Penn-Mar supports and their DSPs in the community homes who were taking on added responsibilities and working longer shifts to ensure the safety of the residents.
“One of our Northrop Grumman values is “We Do The Right Thing,” said Bob Sacca, director and site executive for the Sykesville facility at Northrop Grumman. “Our partnership with Penn-Mar is just one example of how we are living our values.”
“Northrop Grumman has always been so caring and preemptive with our partnership,” said Tina. “They are always willing to go the extra mile, asking about our needs on a regular basis.”
All of the conversations about on-site volunteering had fallen by the wayside until the fall of 2021 when a group of some 20 Northrop Grumman employees came out to the Respite Inn in Westminster equipped with the right tools for the job. They tackled the landscaping, filled the planters with flowers, mulched the gardens and dismantled a patio and walkway that was due for replacing.
According to Tina, they were so motivated and enthused that they kept asking for more assignments. That led to pruning trees and helping to dislodge heavy metal laundry clothesline poles and piling them neatly for the maintenance crew to haul away.
“It was pretty impressive,” remembers Tina. “In my 20 years working with volunteers, community members and partnerships, the Northrop Grumman team leads as one of the best groups of volunteers I have ever worked with.”
“Our employees were happy to help with such meaningful projects,” added Kathy. “When we spoke with the families at Penn-Mar Westminster they couldn’t believe our folks were sacrificing a Saturday off in the service of others. They were immensely grateful and it was so much fun and rewarding for Northrop Grumman employees, their children and spouses to help with these big tasks that needed to be done.”
In fact, before the day wrapped, the volunteer team confirmed that they were ready and willing to commit to a bi-annual day of service with Penn-Mar. A spring 2022 date is already on the calendar.
“It is absolutely amazing, and so important to Penn-Mar’s mission to support people with disabilities, when corporations like Northrop Grumman reach out and say, ‘We have people and financial support to offer. How can we help?'” said Tina.