Sunday, June 15, 2014

Interns Immersed in Company Culture through Volunteerism

Topeka, Kan. – Will Penner is an intern within Bartlett & West's rail division in Topeka, Kan. He was one of 14 interns who participated in the company's first two-day intern volunteerism projects.

"We felt like celebrities," said Penner of the experience Bartlett & West's interns had at Topeka Gives. The interns were wearing Bartlett & West shirts at the second annual event, which was held at Fairlawn Plaza Mall on June 3. Visitors to Topeka Gives had the opportunity visit with the more than 100 area non-profits in attendance. The Topeka Community Foundation pledged matching funds to the various organizations for donations made in person during the one-day event.

Penner further explained that he was surprised how many people at Topeka Gives approached the interns raving about the help Bartlett & West has given their organizations.

The interns spent one day helping set up Topeka Gives and working on a home for Habitat for Humanity. They spent the morning of the second day meeting with the many non-profits at Topeka Gives. Then the group of interns were given $1,000 and tasked with deciding which organizations to donate the money to.

Megan DiGiovanni, an HR generalist at Bartlett & West, organized the interns' volunteerism projects. She explained that the two days were designed to give the interns a hand-on component and also the ability to make a financial impact.

Chelsea Czapla, a Bartlett & West intern in Des Moines, Iowa, traveled to Topeka to participate. She said giving out the money was the most difficult volunteer-related thing she's ever done because it was so hard to pick which organizations to give to. "All of them deserved the money," she said.

The interns chose four organizations to each receive $250 – the Muscular Dystrophy Association, Topeka Rescue Mission, Kansas Association for Conservation and Environmental Education, and Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children of Shawnee County. Ultimately Bartlett & West provided another $250 in matching to each of those four originations, giving each a total of $500.

Besides the monetary donations, the interns also helped Habitat for Humanity by putting up walls on a house for a family of eight refugees from the Congo. Nikki MacMillan, volunteer coordinator at Habitat for Humanity, said that they struggle to fill the weekdays with volunteers, and that the house the interns worked on is the largest house ever built by the Topeka Habitat for Humanity. She said having all the interns working at once really helped get the walls up and jumpstart construction on the house.

The interns also benefitted from the experience.

"I felt important and like my opinion mattered," Penner said of being given the opportunity to make financial contributions on the company's behalf. He added he feels like more of an integral part of Bartlett & West since being part of the volunteerism projects, and that has made him more motivated in his daily work.

Czapla said she most enjoyed being able to meet the interns from other office locations, and getting to learn more about Bartlett & West. "It gave me a whole different perspective about the company and the Bartlett & West culture," she said.

To learn more about being a part of Bartlett & West's intern program, contact Megan DiGiovanni at (785) 228-3182.

Bartlett & West, headquartered in Topeka since 1951, has 14 offices in 10 states. The firm provides engineering, technology solutions and other professional services to a wide range of clients.